Those of you with dogs know that it’s much easier to get out on the road when you have a furry friend to encourage a walk. If your dog is anything like mine, too much time indoors makes him a little crazy so it doesn’t matter what the weather is, we are usually out on the road several times a week.
But if you happen to live in a cold weather environment then it is important to remember that dogs feel the cold too. The level of cold that a dog may feel will vary from breed to breed so before stepping out into the cold weather you should take the same time that you took to get ready and make sure that your dog(s) will be as comfortable in the winter elements as you are.
Here are a few tips to help you and your pup stay safe in the winter.
Watch where you are going
Walking or running with your dog in the winter poses its own set of challenges. Sidewalks may not be passable and traction is often less than desirable. You are the eyes and ears for you and your pup. You must be extra vigilant if you have to step off the sidewalk or cross the street – only doing so when there is no traffic. Even if you are where you should be, cars could slide into you if it is slippery so leave headphones at home so you can hear as well as see what is going on around you. Keep your dog under control or at the heel position so they don’t inadvertently pull you off your feet.
Some dogs feel the cold more than others but even long haired dogs get cold. Ben’s dog, Tilly, a short haired German pointer, has several fashionable coats to keep her warm. She also has booty’s to keep her feet warm and free from salt and sand.
In addition to the shorter days, it is generally darker in winter, especially during and after snowstorms. Visibility is reduced and it is important that both you and your dog are seen by the cars around you. Put reflective material such as an ION on your dog’s coat if it is made of a smooth material like nylon or canvas. At night, add a small light to your dog’s collar to help him show up even more. And don’t forget your own clothes – winter can be very “grey” so reflective material is very important even in the day time.
Shorten your walk
Dogs, by their very nature, will do whatever you ask of them – and they can overdo it simply because they want to keep up with you. It is up to you to make sure you are not asking too much.
Breathing cold air can be hard on both you and your dog and can be potentially damaging. The burning you sometimes feel in your lungs is from dehydration (from sweating) and low humidity. It may be necessary for you to shorten your walk or take two smaller walks in a day. Stay well hydrated.
Never let your pet off leash while walking in winter. If something happens, such as a snowstorm, the sudden appearance of an ice plow, or if your dog rushes out onto an ice lake and falls in, you won’t be able to help or retrieve your bolting or falling dog.
Here are some other important tips as well:
- Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.
- Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk.