This week, we seem to have been hit across the UK with snow by a storm called "Beast from the East" and storm "Emma" with severe weather warnings so here is an article to give some tips and guidance on walking your dog in the snow to help keep both you and your dog safe.
Some dogs just seem to love walking in the snow more than others. Many of our canine companions always seem to have a renewed, fun and playful puppy-like spirit when a blanket of white stuff arrives!
As some of you already may know, some dog breeds are designed to tolerate the cold much better than others. These include husky, mountain dogs, shepherd dog or other cold weather dog. Regardless, the chances are that your regular dog walk in the snow will be much shorter as its still important to retain a dogs exercise regime.
It doesn’t mean that these winter walks will be any easier, they will just require a little more preparation than usual to keep both you and your dog safe as the temperature starts to drop. Dog walkers braving the cold weather, will need to make sure that they have the right equipment as well as knowledge and then these walks with your dog can be wonderful.
Here are a few hints and tips that you can use to make sure you all enjoy a snowy dog walk through a winter wonderland.
Tips for walking in the snow
Firstly, let’s look at keeping your dog warm. Just like how you’ll wrap up warm during inclement weather, it’s important that you give your pooch the protection they might need. Smaller breeds, puppies and those with short hair will feel the cold more acutely, and a dog jacket or dog coat can go a long way to keep them more comfortable. A fleece lined waterproof dog coat will help to keep your dog warm and dry on snowy walks, however it’s worth noting that if the walk becomes quite energetic, you may have to remove the coat to avoid overheating.
Protecting your dogs delicate feet should be your next step. It’s not just the cold that can affect their paws; salt and grit can irritate and can cause discomfort. Both salt and chemical de-icers can be toxic to your dog, so if possible avoid heavily salted routes. Immediately after the walk, make sure you wash their paws thoroughly with warm water to help prevent them from ingesting anything they may have picked up whilst out and dry your pet’s fur completely with a towel after washing. When clearing your own driveway or path, try and use a pet safe product to help prevent this.
Whilst there is a selection of dog boots and shoes available, dogs may not take to wearing them at first, so it’s worthwhile getting them used to wearing them before the bad weather hits. The advantage of having dog boots for your winter walks is that they will keep your pooches feet dry, as well as providing extra traction. A quick and simple alternative is the slather your dog’s paws with petroleum jelly, just make sure to wipe their paws before coming back inside! Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed will also help them with extra traction on snowy dog walks, helping them stop from slipping and sliding around.
When the pavements are dicey or covered in snow, it’s even more important that you prevent your dog from pulling on the lead, as you may end up making that snow angel whether you like it or not.
Experts also advise keeping dogs on a lead if it is snowing heavily as it can be disorientating meaning it's easy for them to get lost.
It is also advisable not to let your dog walk on frozen ponds. This is due to the fact that the ice may not be quite thick enough to take their weight. In the event if they do fall through the ice, don't be tempted to go in after them as you might make things worse. Instead, encourage your dog to swim to you and call the emergency services.
Make sure that your dog, and in particular older dogs, do not dehydrate, because despite the cold weather, they still sweat under their warm coats. However, do not let them eat any snow on winter walks as you have no idea what may be in it or underneath it, or it could contain de-icer which is poisonous to your dog.
If the cold winds and deep snow are limiting your walks to very short ones which is doing very little to relieve your pooch of its excess energy, one solution may be to add a little weight to their walk. A small dog backpack may force them to focus more and use more energy on your winter stroll, making them less mischievous when you get back inside. It’s worth keeping some dry towels by the door for when you do get back inside to dry off your dog (and yourself!) before they go and get cosy by the fire. Make sure to check for ‘snowballs’ between the pads in your dog’s paws at this stage as leaving them there will make walking uncomfortable and sore, which makes the perfect environment for infection.
Much like your hands and feet in the cold weather, your dogs paws can get chapped and cracked after a walk out, so use a pet-safe moisturiser once indoors and dried off. Make sure it’s pet-safe as your dog will likely lick it. Coconut oil is a excellent choice, plus is a great source of fatty acids if your dog licks it off and ingests it, much like our Salmon Oil.
Other hazards that you’ll want to avoid in the cold weather is metal and snowdrifts. Metal is worth giving a wide berth on your snow trek as your pooch may lick metal or touch it with their nose which could cause them to become stuck. And with snowdrifts, whilst the image of your dog running and jumping in piles of snow is lovely, you can’t be sure what lies underneath. If you want to do this for that perfect instagram photo, make the pile yourself so you can ensure it is safe.
Dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia just as people are, so use common sense as to how long your walks can be. Keep them short and watch for signs of hypothermia such as shivering, anxiety and moving slowly. If you notice any of these signs, turn around and go back home. As a good rule of thumb, if you are feeling too cold, then so will your dog.
It is also important not to neglect yourself on a winter dog walk, if the wind is biting and you can’t feel your fingers or toes, it’s probably time to call it a day and head into the warm, even if your dog is raring to go. There are other ways to exercise them inside, such as playing indoor games like hide and seek, or practice training techniques.
Enjoy your winter walks
Be safe and have fun walking your dog in the snow, with the right precautions you can ensure you both have a very enjoyable and memorable winter stroll. Our Lovejoy's Moments make the perfect reward after a successful and well behaved winter walk with your dog.
And remember, just because it’s snowing outside, it’s still your responsibility to clear up after your dog. Especially if you consider that children may be sledging where you’ve walked, this will ruin anyone’s day.
So why not wrap up warm, throw on some wellies, get you and your dog prepared and go for an invigorating walk with your dog using tips from this article and blow away some of those cobwebs with your four legged best friend. Enjoy and keep safe!!!!