Like postmen, dog walkers can be out and about with their dogs in the sun, rain, snow and in the “darkness of the night”. Each condition and season presents its own challenges, some more than others. Winter falls into the “more than others” category, especially in northern latitudes. Snow, sleet, ice, and freezing cold can even make a daily walk in the park less desirable (or enjoyable) for humans and dogs. Here are some tips on how to make the season more bearable all round.
1. Know your dog’s cold tolerance.
Every dog has a different threshold for cold tolerance, which is highly dependent on the breed of the dog. Do you have a Newfoundland or a Husky? Great! They and many other tough, double-coated breeds are better prepared for cold weather and can handle longer trips in harsher conditions. Short-haired or straight-haired dogs such as greyhounds, Weimaraners, or pugs may not find the outdoors alluring. Therefore, bundle them as needed and watch for signs of cold (tremors, whining, excessive licking of paws, holding paws off the ground, tail stuck). If you see any of these signs, it’s time to go back inside. Next time, consider adding a layer or even dog shoes.
How cold is too cold for dogs?
There is no single answer. Much depends on a dog’s age, size, hair type, and individual preferences. But in general, most healthy adult dogs are fine until temperatures drop below 45 ° F. At this point, some dogs may feel uncomfortable. Below 32 ° F, small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, and very young or very old dogs are negatively affected by the cold. At 20 ° F and below, any dog is at risk of developing cold-related and potentially fatal conditions such as hypothermia or frostbite. Wind, humidity, and other climatological factors also affect how a dog catches a cold.
2. Get hold of durable chews and puzzle toys.
Winter always includes a few brutal storms that halt all driving and even outdoor activities. Make sure you have your dog’s favorite chew or puzzle toys on hand so he can have something to do on the days you need to stay. Chewing relieves stress, and playing jigsaw puzzles uses mental energy to keep your dog from bouncing off the walls while you work, care for family members from home or just relax.
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3. Maintain and check your equipment regularly.
If your equipment breaks down, it is likely in cold weather. Prevent your leather goods (leashes, belts, collars) from tearing or splitting by regular cleaning and conditioning. Keep metal parts (such as safety clips or leash fasteners) indoors so that they do not remain open or closed, and wipe them clean and dry after use.
4. Wax these paws before walking.
Do you hate the snowballs that pile up on your dog’s paws after a romp in the frosty forest? Apply a thin coat of Musher’s Secret Paw Wax to your pup’s pads before going outside and the snow won’t stick. That means no painful lumps of ice between your dog’s toes and no snowballs melting all over the house after your walk. Paw wax also prevents the pads from cracking and sore, even on the driest days. When Musher’s Secret isn’t available, Bag Balm does an equally good job. Or, even easier, make some paw wax in your kitchen.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Provide your dog with plenty of water before, during and after outings to keep him moist in the dry winter air and to minimize self-humidity with snow. Eating snow in small quantities is not a big deal, but in larger quantities it can be unsafe as the snow can be polluted by antifreeze, unsafe melted ice, or other harmful contaminants. Avoid excessive snow eating by always having fresh water on hand and offering it to your dog frequently.
6. Feed as needed, not routinely.
Most of the dogs have less exercise in winter. The less you walk your dog, the fewer calories your dog will burn and the less food he will need to maintain a healthy weight. On the flip side, if you keep the same training routine or have a sturdy dog who spends more time outdoors, they will burn more calories in the cold and deep snow and may need more food in their bowl. Regularly check even the fluffiest pooch for weight gain or loss, and adjust feeding as needed.
Another tip related to feeding, keeping your dog’s coat in tip-top shape (good exercise any time of year) can greatly improve winter comfort. Vet Deva Khalsa recommends adding oil – either olive oil or coconut oil – to dog food as a healthy solution for winter dandruff and problems with dry skin. She emphasizes: “Supporting your dog’s biological terrain is the most important way of maintaining his or her well-being and helping him to have healthy skin and a great coat. Both olive and coconut oils are healthy for your dog’s inside and will show up on their outside. “(Details can be found here.)
7. Exercise and train inside on really cold days.
Cold temperatures and humid conditions are a recipe for frostbite and chills. On the coldest days with cold weather, it is best to opt for short potty walks and indoor exercise. This is a great time to sign up for a Zoom dog training class, teach the puppy the party trick you have been dreaming of, find just the right thing, or optimize your obedience skills. When you and your dog are tired of exercising at home, take a trip to a dog-friendly shop to change the scenery.
For working breeds like Belgian Malinois, Border Collies, or really any energetic dog, a treadmill can be a real lifesaver in bad weather. Consult a trainer before attempting to teach your dog to exercise on a treadmill and always stay with him when he is using it. Or, do yourself and your dog a favor by including them in an indoor exercise routine. For inspiration, check out this compilation of exercise videos for humans and dogs