Truth is, it’s a difficult time of year to continue regular walking habits. But with some attention to the weather it is possible to continue safely walking dogs through the winter and your dog will thank you for it! (More to come on that in the next few weeks.)
There are 2 main things about the outside that we need to consider and both of those will be relative to the size and breed of dog you have. It goes without saying that a little chihuahua is going to struggle more with the cold weather and snow than a big labrador is, or labradoodle for that matter. In fact for our arctic breeds (think huskies and malamutes) or our smushy faced brachycephalics (think bull-dog breeds and pugs) this time of year can actually be their favorite for exercising outside. So, first tip is to always consider your dog first. Are they low to the ground and likely to be in the snow? Do they have fur between their pad that are going to make little ice-balls? Do they have a big double coat or are the short furred? For our more “delicate” breeds it is ideal to get them used to jackets and boots as puppies so they readily accept the help when winter arrives. But if that ship has sailed then reward based training is the best option to help them settle into their new gear. Always remember that your dog - just like you - will enjoy the outdoors a lot more if they are warm and protected from the elements. But the amount of protection they need is relative to their size and breed.
Regarding the outside the first thing to consider is the air temperature and wind chill. Dogs (and cats for that matter) can get frostbite too - with less furred areas like ear tips being the most vulnerable area. Additionally dogs can also suffer from hypothermia if left outside for too long on a cold day. So always consider how long you are going to be outside based on how cold it is - and take advantage of those warmer winter days for longer walks. If you have a very active dog and a short walk won’t cut it then consider multiple short walks with time to warm up in between. Here is great chart to help you based on your size of dog: http://mentalfloss.com/article/524187/handy-chart-tells-you-when-its-too-cold-walk-your-dog
The second thing to consider is the ground under your dogs feet. There are multiple risks with winter walking including sharp edges of ice that can cut pads, hidden sticks (or worse) under the snow that can poke or puncture, divets and valleys that can be hidden and can trip your dog if they accidentally step in, and of course the cold walkways themselves and the anti-slip products that people are using. In some ways it is safer to stick to the cleared areas on the sidewalk as it allows the best visibility and traction for both of you. But you must bear in mind that (if your dog is not in boots) this will increase their exposure to salt and salt products that can irritate, dry out or even damage your dogs pads. If your dog won’t tolerate walking in boots then a great bet is to clean off their feet when you get home. You can have them walk through some clean snow on your property before coming in, or use a little foot bath or damp cloth once you get inside depending on how sensitive your dog is to the products used around you.
We hope that these tips help you and your dog to get out and enjoy the winter together! https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Cold-weather-pet-safety.aspx And always remember that if you have any questions then the vets at Healthy Pets are just a phone call away!
From all of us at Healthy pets to all of you (Hoomans and pets alike) we wish you all a Very Happy New Year! With all the best wishes for a safe and healthy 2019.