The long, warm days of Summer are well and truly behind us, and the temptation to go into hibernation is strong. We know, heading out for a walk with your canine companion isn't the most appealing at this time of year, but we're here to help. Leave your duvet behind, get outside with you dog and improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Dogs with double coats like Huskies and Golden Retrievers cope better in cold weather, while shorthaired breeds could benefit from an extra layer to keep them warm, so it is important to invest in a coat or a jumper. Make sure you stay aware of any changes in the weather while on your walk. You don’t want your pup overheating if the sun suddenly comes out!
Winter dog walking most often takes place after dark due to the shorter days so it is important to keep you and your pup safe during walkies. You can get reflective vests for dogs so that they can be seen more easily in the night or you can even get an LED collar for them. There's also a range of reflective collar accessories available, including Leather Flowers which are made with reflective fabric.
Dogs have very sensitive feet, and extreme temperatures can cause them sever discomfort or even injury. Slather some petroleum jelly on their delicate feet to create a protecting layer. This will keep them insulated from the cold, salt or de-icing grains on the ground. Just remember to wipe it off before coming back inside, unless you want to recreate a slippery ice rink indoors!
Make the Most of the Winter Daylight
Sunlight is critical for boosting serotonin levels, not just in humans but for our dogs too. So when darkness descends at 4pm in the Winter, it’s easy for us to miss out on this feel-good hormone and feel down and lethargic. It's im-paw-tant to get enough daylight to help boost our moods, help our sleep cycles and ultimately improve our wellbeing. This goes for our dogs too!
Try waking up around sunrise to get the most out of your days. If you're not naturally an early-riser, try waking up 15 minutes earlier each morning until you reach a point that works for you. If you are a working paw-rent, it is so important to take your pup for a walk early in the morning as it will likely be dark by the time you return home.
Stay Indoors if Needed
-4°C is generally too cold to walk your dog, so if the temperatures hit this point, it's probably best to stay at home. This doesn't mean your dog has to miss out on some fun, enriching activities though. You can find instructional videos online for agility workouts to do indoors which will keep your dog’s joints and muscles in top shape. Alternatively, playing fetch with your dog on the stairs or creating a treasure hunt game with their favourite treat will have them using up some energy at home. Incorporating activities into your dog’s routine doesn’t just maintain their weight, it’s also great for their mental health and wellbeing too.
If you’re the owner of an elderly dog or a dog with arthritis, spending too much time in cold weather won’t be enjoyable for them. Take extra care in cold or damp weather by going on shorter, more frequent walks and avoiding steep hills or too many steps. You should also avoid walks in the rain if you can as this can cause a lot of pain for senior pups..
Blue Cross advise all dog owners to "stay away from frozen ponds or lakes and keep your dog on a lead near frozen water, so they don't fall through the ice. If they do run on to it, it’s tempting to go after them but it’s really important that you don’t – most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are."
Always trim the fur around your dog’s paws during Winter to help prevent ice balls from building up. These form between the pad and toes of the paw and are very painful for your pet.
Don't go out in unsafe conditions. If the ice is too slippery or the snow is too deep, it's best to be safe and stay at home.
Never leave your dog outside alone during the Winter. Most dogs spend a lot of time inside and are not used to extreme cold, so they could develop hypothermia or frostbite. Look out for signs such as whining, shivering, or hard skin and take your dog to the vets immediately if you suspect they are suffering from either frostbite or hypothermia.
Antifreeze is highly poisonous but tasty to dogs. Make sure you always keep antifreeze and other chemicals well out of reach and be sure to quickly mop up any spills. Be mindful when out and about.
Walks are often the highlight of your dog’s day, so don’t let chilly weather get in the way. Take a few extra precautions and keep active, happy and healthy over Winter. Remember, you know your dog best so always be sure to monitor their behaviour and consult your vet if you are unsure about anything.