When temperatures plummet, winds pick up, and ice makes walking difficult, it can be tough to motivate both dog and owner to get out and exercise. However, your dog still needs exercise and if she doesn’t get it, chances are she will find a less desirable outlet for her energy. A dog with excess energy may turn to destructive behaviors such as chewing and destroying household items. So don’t let the chill in the air keep you and your pooch indoors.
Here are some useful tips to make your winter walks a positive and safe part of your routine.
Make sure you are wearing enough layers to keep you comfortable. If you live in an area where snow is the norm, wearing waterproof snow pants over your clothes provides extra protection against dampness.
Always keep your head and hands covered. Make sure you are wearing warm gloves that allow for easy movement of your fingers. You want to be able to easily grip your dog’s leash, pick up after her, and remove debris from her coat or paws without having to remove your gloves.
Waterproof boots or shoes that have good traction are essential. If you will be navigating icy surfaces, it is probably best to have a pair of boots that can easily slip on to the bottom of your shoes for added grip.
Dogs with long or thick coats are naturally protected against the cold, and most healthy dogs can tolerate walking out in cold weather for brief periods of time. However, some dogs need more help in regulating their body temperature. This is particularly true of very young and very old dogs, hairless or short-haired breeds, and smaller dogs who are closer to the ground. Puppies and elderly dogs, as well as dogs who already suffer from chronic illnesses, are more at risk of developing hypothermia if exposed to the cold for too long.
If you live in a cold area, you should invest in a decent jacket for Fido. It should repel moisture to prevent snow from seeping in. It should also be easy to put on. Make sure you can easily attach a leash to the coat or reach the collar through it. Remember to measure your dog and follow the sizing instructions if you are ordering the coat. A proper fit is crucial to protect against the elements.
Wipe your pooch’s paws when you come in from your walk. This removes salt and other chemicals used to melt ice (which is used on roads, driveways, and sidewalks) from your dog’s paws. You want to remove these before she licks her paws and before they have time to irritate her paw pads. You can either use a wet washcloth or buy pre-moistened pet-paw wipes.
Always watch your dog’s body language on walks. If it is too cold for her to walk too far, she will let you know. The following are signs that your dog needs to get out of the cold immediately:
- Lifting paws up
- Licking paws
While we don’t typically think of winter as a time when our dogs will need to hydrate on walks, it’s a good idea to have fresh water on hand.
Walking is still exercising. If you notice your fur-friend licking ice or snow, you can redirect by pouring a little bowl of freshwater. You don’t want her eating or licking anything she comes across on her winter walk because this time of year there tends to be a lot of ice melt, salt, chemicals, and antifreeze out on the roads. All of these can be harmful to pets.
If possible, walk during the day when it is light out. It is warmer outside and you and your dog will be most visible to traffic at this time. Winter conditions may not be ideal for long, leisurely walks, but it’s important for both you and your dog to continue regular exercise together.