How To Keep Your Dog Safe On Cold Winter Walks
The winter months can present you with a dilemma when it comes to walking your dog. The weather isn't always inviting. It can be cold, rainy, snowy, icy. But your dog needs exercise and they love their walks. So how do you cope with the challenges and dangers that winter dog walking presents? By taking the right precautions, planning ahead, and fixing both of you up with the appropriate gear, you and your pooch can enjoy the delights of outdoor exercise and keep safe and warm at the same time. Even those dogs which are more susceptible to cold temperatures such as puppies, seniors, and those with certain medical conditions can enjoy winter walking with the correct preparations.
Unfortunately, we can't control the weather, so we have to work with it. Walking your dog in the winter means you need to make some preparations before you even set out through the door.
First, check the weather forecast. Yes, I know, they don't always get it right, but it should give you some guidance, you don't want to get caught in the oh so common British rain.
Make sure you have all the necessary equipment, a good strong lead and collar or preferably a harness, these are a must to make sure your dog isn't going to break away and get lost in bad weather.
A warm, waterproof coat is vital in freezing temperatures. If your dog will tolerate them, boots are great to protect their paws. It's a good idea before winter even arrives to try and get them used to wearing a coat and boots so when winter does make an appearance, your dog won't think twice about it. For those who absolutely refuse to be seen in boots make sure you clip the hair between their toes to reduce the risk of ice build-up. Rubbing some of the 100% Natural Paw Balm from The Dog Doctors Grooming Range will further help to protect their paws from ice burns or lesions.
Plan your route ahead of time. Your regular walk may not be so safe in extreme weather so search out alternatives which you can both enjoy in safety.
For seniors suffering from arthritis, it's useful to have them on natural supplements like Glucosamine and Chondroitin which will act as an anti-inflammatory and help to lubricate their joints, making it easier for them to walk in winter weather.
Some dogs have a natural defence against the cold. The Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, and the iconic Saint Bernard, along with several other breeds have thick, double coats to keep them warm and prevent the moisture from getting to their skin. But, on occasion, even they may benefit from a vest in extreme cold.
Many other dogs aren't so lucky, and for various reasons they need help to cope in the cold and wet. The small, short-haired breeds like the Chihuahua and the Dachshund find it more difficult to generate and maintain body heat to keep themselves warm.
Although breeds like the Pembroke Welsh Corgi have a thick coat, they are low to the ground and will get cold easily. Breathing difficulties may prevent Brachycephalic breeds from racing around like other dogs, so will most likely need some protection in the very cold weather in order to keep warm. The lean-bodied breeds with short hair like the Greyhound and the Whippet are also very susceptible to the cold and will need a coat in low temperatures.
Of course, those seniors with arthritis definitely need a warm, waterproof coat.
And don't forget your cute little puppy who will just be bouncing around without a care in the world. They will also need a good fitting warm coat to protect them and help maintain body heat.
If you decide your dog does need a coat, make sure you get one that fits well. It should extend from the base of the neck to the tail without being so long that it causes problems. Make sure it's a snug fit without being too tight. There are many different types available from rain gear to light sweaters to arctic parkas.
Always remember to take the coat off as soon as you get back as your dog can overheat easily once back home in a warm house.
Safety Tips When Walking Your Dog
Winter presents a number of risks for your dog, so you will need to be vigilant when out walking. Keep your dog away from frozen ponds, rivers, and lakes. The ice may look solid, but it can be very dangerous and if your dog falls through, hypothermia can set in very quickly, threatening their life. Melting snow and ice can also lead to strong flowing currents which could sweep your dog away very quickly. So, always use a lead and don't let your dog run free.
As you know, dogs like to eat almost anything, but chemicals found in road salt or antifreeze are extremely toxic so keep your dog well away from them. If your dog is sniffing around at something, it's a good idea to take a few treats with you to try and divert attention.
Winter Blap Disease can also be a problem. Yes, there is such a thing. If dogs get thirsty, they may eat large amounts of snow, which can be vomited back again, often, unfortunately, when they get back indoors. To help prevent this, make sure your dog is well hydrated before the walk and always take water with you, no matter how cold it is. Invest in an insulated portable bottle so the water doesn't freeze.
Pay attention to your dog's behaviour to check for any signs of discomfort. If they are constantly lifting paws, shivering, whining, have their tail between their legs or refuse to move, then it's time to get them back in the warm.
Caring For Your Dog After The Walk
Once you and your pup return from your walk there are still some jobs to be done to make sure there are no ill effects from the winter weather.
Always dry your dog thoroughly after a walk in the rain or snow and follow a regular grooming routine to ensure the coat and skin stay healthy. Pay particular attention to the paws. Remove any build-up of salt, dirt or grit which could burn, and then apply some of the Dog Doctors Natural Paw Balm again to help soothe and restore any cracks or lesions. This can also be used on a dry or cracked nose which may have spent a lot of time buried in the snow.
Brushing will stimulate the natural oils in the skin and help to reduce the risk of itchy, chafed, or dry skin which can develop after a walk in the cold.
You will need to get your dog clean as quickly as possible to prevent licking at any debris picked up during your walk, which could lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. This is where a waterless shampoo is a lifesaver. Quick and easy to use, the 100% natural formula of the Dog Doctors Coconut Wash Dry Shampoo will not only wash and moisturise your dog, but the coconut scent itself is great for calming and will ease your pooch into a long and restful sleep after the exertions of the winter walk. Leaving you to sit and relax in front of a roaring fire, with your chosen beverage.