We've all been cozy and warm inside, chestnuts roasting and oh no we forgot to walk the dog! In the winter months, cold weather can make it especially daunting to take your pooch for his regular walk. And if you live in a place where it snows, the walk can seem even more chilly and torturous. Since your dog still needs exercise even when the weather outside is frightful, here are some tips on how to take walks in the winter.
1. Protect their feet
You wouldn't walk out in the snow with no protection on your feet, so why should your dog? Invest in some protective booties for your pup to wear when she goes outside. If she refuses to wear them (as many dogs hilariously do), rub some petroleum jelly on her paws and trim her paw hair short to avoid getting anything stuck to the pads of her feet. When you get home, make sure to thoroughly wipe off all the jelly and any excess snow or sidewalk salt that may be there.
2. Bundle up
Long-haired dogs that were bred for colder temps are usually fine frolicking in icy weather, but your short-haired dogs may need some extra warmth. Look into getting them a sweater or even a waterproof jacket they can wear to keep cozy.
3. Have them carry the weight
Since your walks might get shorter as the thermometer drops lower, it's a good idea to get your pooch to expend a lot of energy quickly. Have him wear a small dog backpack and gradually load it with as much weight as he feels comfortable walking with. This will make him work slightly harder as he walks and should tucker him out before anyone gets too cold.
4. Don't step on the metal
If you're walking in an urban environment, you may cross paths with exposed metal like sidewalk grates. Normally these are all right to walk over, but in the wintertime, the moisture on your dog's paws from surrounding snow may trigger an electrical reaction in the metal or any exposed wires therein. To avoid shock, walk around the grates for now.
5. Don't go snow diving
Your fun-loving friend may see a snowdrift as a fun place to explore head-on, but it's not a good idea. There may be hazards hidden just underneath the snow—such as fallen trees or metal shards or even a hole—that could be harmful to your pup. If she loves to play in the snow, make sure she does it in a place you know for sure has nothing under the snow, like a wide-open field or a certain section of your yard.
6. Watch your dog
Even with all of these precautions, there may be days when it's just too darn cold to be outside. Pay attention to your dog as you walk so you can watch for signs that she's too cold. These signs include shivering, burrowing or just general displays of anxiety. As soon as your dog displays signs like these, head indoors.
Make sure to talk to your vet about the kind of exercise your dog can handle in the winter. You can also ask them for advice about ways to work out even if you can't go out. Whatever you do, try your best to stay warm and cozy this winter to keep Jack Frost from nipping at your dog's nose.
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By Nancy Buley, J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., Wholesale Tree Growers
Photographs courtesy of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co.
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