Winter can be a challenging season for dog owners, but with a little preparation and planning, you and your furry friend can stay safe and comfortable throughout the colder months. Though this year has been quite mild in comparison to previous years, it is important to be prepared to handle the weather that may still come in. Here are some tips for handling winter with your dog:
- Keep your dog warm: Just like humans, dogs can get cold in the winter, especially if they are short-haired or small breeds. A warm coat or sweater can help your dog stay comfortable when venturing outside. On especially cold days, double layer their jackets with a core warming sweater and an outer layer made of weatherproof material. You may also want to provide your dog with a cozy bed in a warm, dry spot indoors. If you take your dog outside in the snow, be sure to wipe their paws and fur dry when you return inside to prevent them from getting too cold.
- Protect your dog’s paws: The salt and chemicals used to melt snow and ice on roads and sidewalks can be harmful to your dog’s paws. You can protect your dog’s paws by using a protective wax or booties. Make sure the booties fit properly and are comfortable for your dog. If your dog doesn’t tolerate wearing booties, you should rinse their paws off with warm water after walks to remove any salt or chemicals before they try to lick it away.
Apply a wax such as Musher’s Secret each time your dog goes outside, to give a layer of protection against the sand and salt on the road and keep it out of your dog’s paws.
When treating your own driveway or walkways against ice, use a pet safe product such as Paw Thaw so your dog can cross your property safely.
- Limit time spent outside: While it’s important for your dog to get exercise and fresh air, it’s also important to limit their time spent outside in the cold as needed. Be mindful of the weather conditions and your dog’s breed and size when deciding how long to spend outside. If it’s too cold or snowy, consider indoor activities such as puzzle toys or training exercises. You can also send them to doggy daycare to get their energy out and play with friends.Dog specific treadmills are a great way to get your dog their necessary exercise without leaving the house. Introduce your dog to a treadmill slowly and with lots of tasty treats to encourage them to move forward. Once your dog is comfortable, you can even set up your own treadmill beside theirs and get your steps in together!Remember that some breeds were made for this cold weather. What feels cold to us may not be uncomfortable for northern breeds such as the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, and other such breeds. These breeds have a thick double coat and were bred to handle weather conditions that their lighter coated cousins would despise. Be sure to keep an eye on your individual dog to make sure they are comfortable on their outdoor excursions on especially cold or snowy days.
Remember that some dogs love being out in the snow and cold no matter how uncomfortable they may become. Breeds with high levels of drive can ignore their own physical needs, requiring us to step in and regulate them ourselves. Retrieving breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, and Golden Retrievers may be willing to play ball until they drop, but they should be supervised to prevent them from overdoing their time outside. To check if your dog should come inside, give them a short break from the game to see if they want to go inside, check how heavily your dog is panting, if their skin is cold, and if their paws look red or sore. Sometimes our dogs have too much fun and need our help in keeping them safe.
- Maintain a healthy diet: Cold weather can cause dogs to burn more calories to stay warm, so be sure you are feeding them a balanced diet that meets their energy needs. If you notice your dog losing weight on the same amount of food, check with their veterinarian if they may need extra food to keep them warm. You may also want to consider adding a joint supplement to your dog’s diet to help keep their joints healthy and mobile during the colder months. If your dog is reluctant to eat, you can add meal toppers such as Stella and Chewy’s Magic Dust to entice them to get the calories they need. Hydrate their kibble with warm water or bone broth to make it more appealing on a cold day.
- Stay on track with their grooming: During the winter, there is often a temptation to leave our dogs’ coats longer to keep them warm. Remember that with longer fur comes the responsibility for more frequent and diligent brushing and combing. Consult with your groomer on how often you should be brushing your dog, as each type of hair requires different care. Most groomers are also happy to demonstrate how to properly brush out your dog to ensure you are getting to the skin, especially in their legs, belly, and armpits to prevent any tangles from forming. For long coated dogs prone to getting snowballs, be sure to brush them out thoroughly each time they get wet to prevent matts from forming. Some owners choose to have their dog’s long hair trimmed during the winter to help prevent the formation of snowballs if the dog loves being outside. Canada Pooch carries a snowsuit designed for long coated dogs to keep them dry and snowball free. When dogs wear sweaters, they are more prone to getting friction matting underneath. Remember to remove any apparel at least once a day to brush your dog and check for irritation or rubbing that may be hidden.
- Stay visible: Winter can bring shorter days and less daylight, making it important to keep your dog visible when walking outside. You can do this by using reflective clothing or accessories such as collars, leashes, and vests on your dog, and a reflective vest on yourself. Use a leash to keep your dog safe and prevent them from running off in the snow. Remember that vehicles on the road may also have decreased visibility, so stay vigilant and keep an eye out for vehicles, while making yourself as visible as possible.
The best way to keep your dog safe and happy in the winter is to remain attentive to your dog’s needs during the coldest season, and adjust your routine as needed. With some extra care and attention, you and your furry friend can enjoy the winter season together. How do you enjoy the winter season with your pets?