Dos and Don'ts of Winter Dog Walking
A snowy jaunt with your pup is just what the doctor (and vet) ordered for a bout of cabin fever. You don’t have to go out of your way to make it happen—any old yard or street will do—but you should bear in mind that as your needs change with the seasons, so do your dog’s. Here’s how to keep fun and safety top of mind:
Do: Size up your pup.
If you have a long-haired breed, or a breed known for cold-weather tolerance (like a Husky or a St. Bernard), you’re probably OK to leave the coat behind. Tiny breeds like Chihuahuas, short-haired breeds (even big ones like Great Danes), and senior pets, though, all need the extra protection a coat offers.
Don’t: Let your dog eat snow or lick the ground.
Or his paws, for that matter. Ground chemicals used for ice melting are not only rough on the paws, but also the organs. Another common winter concern: the presence of ethylene glycol (better known as antifreeze). If your dog tries to drink from that sweet, blue-green puddle, lead him quickly away.
Do: Consider boots.
Our feet clearly need shoes, but did you know your dog’s feet are fragile, too? Paws are built for insulation, but they’re also super-sensitive—kind of like our fingertips. Good boots will protect your dog from salt, cold and chemicals. Find the right fit by bringing your dog to the store with you, or if you’re buying online, looking for companies that have detailed sizing charts—including nail measurements. And be patient. It takes a while for some dogs to get used to walking in boots.
Don’t: Air dry.
If your pup doesn’t don boots, a full foot wash-and-dry after your stroll is a must. This little cleanup helps avoid licking of any chemicals or salt that might have gotten stuck between the pads of the foot while you were out. Go full-on pamper and rub on some organic paw and nose balm or lotion afterward.
Do: Choose your leash wisely.
A front clip harness will help minimize strain, and a solid leash (rather than retractable) helps exact control. One important consideration: How good is your traction? If you’re wary of falling and not having free hands to catch yourself, a waist-wrapping leash might be your pick.
Don’t: Neglect grooming.
This tip is for the pre-walk more than the walk itself. Matted fur isn’t as good as well-groomed fur at keeping dogs warm; it provides less adequate insulation. Plus, your dog will want to look nice while she celebrates the season.
Do: Be vigilant.
Learn the signs of antifreeze poisoning (similar to alcohol poisoning and noticeable quickly), frostbite (pain, brittleness and discoloration), and ice melt poisoning (hypersalivating and vomiting, to start). Keep your eyes on your dog to help avoid these concerns and catch any issues quickly.
What do you do to protect your pets in winter weather?