We all know that dogs need exercise despite whatever mother nature decides on a given day. It can be especially tough to get out there, however, when it feels like the arctic!
As experienced dog walkers in Columbus, Ohio, here’s 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 as kids, bundle up before you go outside! Along with “Close the door, were you raised in a barn?” and “Eat your veggies!” …right?
Layering is key to dressing appropriately for winter weather. Also, 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, however, you can only take off so many layers before it’s illegal!”
The same bundle-up protocol applies for your pup, especially for smaller, short-haired breeds. We’ve all seen those cute pics of dog’s in coats in the wintertime, but they do more than make your pet look stylish.
Be sure to have a few sweaters and jackets available 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 busy cities, chances are everyone will be salting everything. Consider putting boots on your dog’s paws to protect them from getting burned or dry and cracked.
Make sure to take the time to get them comfy with wearing their new gear first. Otherwise, your first snowfall adventure may be a bust for you both!
Here’s a few tips to help get you started:
One shoe at a time
When you first introduce shoes to your dog, only put on one at a time. Let them check it all out, get the proper feel for wearing it, 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 now put the shoes/booties on both paws. Each day after that, continue to work up your dog to wearing two boots at once. Reinforce their cooperation with treats, and your fur baby will adjust to their new shoes in no time.
Start on the carpet
This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. As you get your dog used to having boots on both paws, start on a carpeted space, as opposed to your kitchen floor or hardwood. This will prevent slipping. Slipping and sliding 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 by starting boot-training in the fall. Then, come wintertime, your pup will be a natural in their booties! Otherwise, you might want to put a pause on their walking routine, since they’re not properly prepped for the winter conditions. Boot-training will guarantee that their walking routines stay consistent!
Continue to reward
As your pup gets used to walking around in their new gear, be sure to reward them with treats and praise. They’ll start to associate wearing their boots and behaving with getting rewarded, which will make them more willing to wear and walk 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 laughs from the whole ordeal? At the least, snap a few pics for the memory book! You’ll thank us later.
Tip #2: Pup Pedicures
Dog walking in the winter is much more comfortable when the hair between your dog’s paw pads is 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 as it causes discomfort and dryness.
To protect their paws, give them a wipe after dog walks in the winter. Use a warm wet washcloth or pre-moistened pet wipe. Washing their paws, or simply dipping them in warm water, helps remove salt, ice melt, and/or other chemicals that might cause harm.
Carefully inspect their paws at least once a day, too! If you notice cracking, dryness, or bleeding (or simply want to take preventative measures against these things), then moisturize those little beans! One of the best ways to prevent cracked, rough, and split paw pads 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 throughout the winter months.
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
- 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.
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!
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!