Top 4 Dog Walking Tips For Winter Weather

We all know that dogs need exercise despite what mother nature decides on a given day. But it can be tough to get out there when it feels like the arctic!

With chilly temps upon us now in Columbus, Ohio, it got us thinking about the importance of taking extra precautions when dog walking. As experienced dog walkers near you, we have a few tips to make you and your pup’s daily treks more comfortable and enjoyable this time of year.

Tip #1: Bundle Up

Like our parents used to tell us, bundle up before you go outside (right up there with “Close the door, were you raised in a barn?” and “Eat your veggies!” …am I right?). Layering is key to dressing appropriately for winter weather, so make sure that whatever outfits you choose are warm and comfortable. Another old adage from childhood applies: “In winter, you can always take a layer off if you’re too warm. In the summer, you can only take off so many layers before it’s illegal!”

That all said, the same bundle-up protocol applies for your pup! We’ve all seen those cute pics of dog’s wearing coats in the winter, but they do more than make your pet look swanky. Be sure to have a few sweaters and jackets on hand for different temperatures and elements. Finally, ensure they’re fitted properly along with their leashes and harnesses, so they’re fully comfortable and safe while out and about.

Also, don’t forget the booties! If you live in an area where there’s snow or ice on the ground, especially in cities, chances are everyone will be salting everything. Consider putting boots on your dog’s paws to protect them from slipping, cracking pads, and any other injuries.

And just as with their harnesses, clothing, and other paraphernalia, make sure to take the time to get them comfy with wearing them first! Otherwise, your first surprise snowfall adventure may be a bust for you both.

Thankfully, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help get you started!

One shoe at a time

As the saying goes, we all put our shoes on one at a time. The same goes for pups. When you first introduce shoes to your dog, only put one on at a time. Let them check it all out, and if they cooperate (which means not trying to tear their booties off!), give them a treat for a job well done! Come back to the exercise the next day, and try putting one on the other foot. Each day, work up to having your dog wear two boots at once, reinforcing with treats, and your fur baby will adjust to their new shoes in no time. 

Start on the carpet

This goes hand-in-hand (paw-in-paw?) with the tip above. As you get your dog used to having boots on both feet, starting on a carpeted space as opposed to your kitchen floor or hardwood, or the slippery conditions outdoors, will prevent slipping. Slipping and sliding on the floor will not only frustrate your pup but could be dangerous for them (and anything in their way)!

Get a head start

Be prepared for winter and start boot-training pre-season. Then, come wintertime, your pup will be all ready to go outside in their booties! Otherwise, there will likely be a break or decrease in their walking routine during the “training” period if you wait for winter, since they’re not properly prepped for the conditions.

Continue to reward

As your pup gets used to walking around the house safely in their new gear, be sure to reward them with treats and praise. They’ll start to associate behaving with their boots on with getting rewarded, which will make them super ready for walks in them!

Be ready to get out your camera

At first, your furry friend may look like a drum major of a marching band trying to walk in their new shoes. But trust us, once they get the hang of it, they will thank you. In the meantime, though, why not get some yuks from the whole ordeal? You’ll thank us later. 😉

Tip #2: Pup Pedicures

Dog walking in the winter is much more comfortable with your dog’s hair between the paw pads clipped short. It reduces the likelihood that ice will accumulate on the fur between their paws, which can make it difficult for them to walk and could cause lameness.

To protect those paws further, always give them a wipe after dog walks in the winter. Using a warm wet washcloth or pre-moistened pet wipe will do the trick. Washing their paws or simply dipping in warm water helps remove salt, ice melt, or other chemicals that might cause harm to their health. It also helps with any injuries that might have occurred on walks in winter weather.

Carefully inspect their paws at least once a day, too! If you notice cracking, dryness, or bleeding (or simply want to take preventative measures in the colder months), then moisturize those beans! One of the best ways to prevent cracked, rough, and split dog paws is to use a pet-safe skin conditioner or paw wax before your pet goes out in the winter weather.

There are also some great household alternatives like coconut oil or Vaseline. Paw wax and the like forms a protective barrier between the ground and your dog’s paws. It may be an extra step, but it’s well worth the effort to keep your fur baby safe and healthy throughout the winter months.

What’s your process for ensuring “happy paws” in the wintertime? Please check out our social for more!

Tip #3: Keep It Short N Sweet

In extremely cold temperatures, limit your walks unless your dog can really handle it and seems comfortable. It’s vital you pay attention to your canine’s body language while braving the cold. Some telltale signs that they’re not a fan of the conditions are:

  • Picking up their paws
  • Licking their paws
  • Whining
  • Consistent shivering

Cut the walk short and head back home immediately if you notice any of these signs persisting. You don’t have to sweat heading out in the cold (unless you’re overly bundled, ha!) as your pup will let you know when they have had enough. All you need to do is stay mindful and watch for the cues. This may mean more frequent, shorter walks in the winter, but less strain on everyone involved.

Now, another layer on all of this is that each dog breed has their own quirks. Some are the cold-loving type, like Siberian Huskies, who can handle temperatures as cold as -60°F. At the same time, smaller breeds prefer more temperate climates and might start feeling the cold at around 45°F. As a general rule, the average dog should not be exposed to temps of 32°F or below for prolonged periods of time.

One final, critical tip is to keep your pup on a short leash when dog walking. As the temperature plummets, the shorter the leash the better. You don’t want to lose your pup in an icy tundra while sniffing around in the snow.

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Tip #4: Keep It On The Sidewalk

If your canine companion is a cold-loving breed, such as huskies or malamutes, then they are all set for just about any weather. However, if your pup does not have a thick fur coat, it’s best to avoid snow play during walks. If cold snow touches your pup’s soft and unprotected belly, they will chill much faster than you expect.

Keep your regular walks on sidewalks or cleared trails, so your dog stays warm and dry. And as mentioned, avoid ice and salt as much as possible to ensure nothing gets trapped in those precious paw pads, or keep your pup booties at the ready so you won’t have to worry at all!

>> Check out our latest Facebook Live for more on winter pup preparedness!

In Closing

The daily recommended time for walks varies depending on your dog’s health, size, breed, and more, but it’s typically around 45 mins to 1 hour. But during the cold winter months, dogs only get around 15-20 minutes daily on average. 

It’s no wonder we see an uptick in dogs with anxiety and destructive behavior during this time of year! If you are feeling guilty about leaving your pup home alone or it’s just too darn cold outside for you to go out in it for yourself, don’t worry! Hands N Paws is here for you! We provide dog walking services in Columbus, Ohio. That way, your pup can enjoy some exercise during this time of year and with appropriate precautions! We’re passionate, pet pampering experts!

Our dog walkers will take care of your pup’s needs without risking frostbite or other potential dangers associated with being out in the chilly weather for too long. We implement all the safety measures mentioned above! 

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