Many dogs love winter — but does winter love dogs?
Let’s face it — your dog either loves winter or hates it. Just like humans! If your dog loves winter then it’s worth thinking about the kind of dangers and hazards which lurk on frozen city streets. If your dog hates winter then you need to take steps to make their walks as warm and comfortable as possible.
- Wrap them up! Some dogs, like Great Pyrenees and Bernese Mountain breeds, are ideally equipped for cold weather with their thick fur and thick skin. Indeed such breeds originate from cold weather climates and as such don’t really need coats, unless they’re particularly cold or the weather is particularly severe. But most other dogs, especially small and short haired breeds, will appreciate the best quality jacket you can buy them for frigid days. Make sure it’s insulated, waterproof and windproof. A good idea is to buy a warm sweater along with a lightweight waterproof and windproof shell — that way you have more control over their comfort as you can add or remove layers depending on the weather. It’s very important to make sure they’re a good fit — too loose and they’ll feel drafts, too tight and they will cut off their circulation.
- Consider dog booties A good pair of warm, waterproof dog boots will not only protect your dogs paws from the weather but also from salted city sidewalks. The chemical salts which are used to melt ice and snow can burn a dogs paws — although some dogs appear to be more affected than others. Typical dog reactions to sidewalk salt range from incessant paw licking (discourage it!) to outright screaming. It’s especially important to make sure that dog boots are a good fit and fasten securely. If you buy boots that come off easily you’ll soon regret it as you find you have to retrace your steps every five minutes to find a boot that’s come off. A dog is less likely to reject boots if they’re well fitted and secure. Velcro fastened boots with rubber soles tend to be longer lasting and warmer, while disposable rubber boots can give a more secure fit and have a more natural feel to a dog. If your dog absolutely won’t wear boots no matter how much you try, you can always try rubbing wax on their paws. Such waxes are available from most pet stores and protect against snow and salt.
- Make sure your own shoes are suitable! This probably goes without saying, but you should also be sure that your own footwear is suitable for walking on icy city streets. Firm footing is a must in the snow regardless, but even more so when you’re walking your dog. Should they pull or bolt, the last thing you want is to fall flat on your behind because your shoes don’t have adequate grip!
- Avoid metal surfaces Aside from the fact that metal surfaces can be extremely cold in winter weather, there is another imperative reason to avoid them. Salt which drips into manhole covers and grates can corrode old electrical wiring under roads and sidewalks and cause stray current. This has been a well publicized issue in New York City in past years and the problem shows no signs of abating as New York’s utility company can offer no guarantees that sidewalks will not carry current in winter. Dogs in New York City are regularly electrocuted in winter and in one particularly tragic case an NYC dog walker was electrocuted and killed after she and her dogs walked across an electrified grate. The problem isn’t exclusive to New York City — anywhere there’s underground wiring and salt, wire corrosion and stray current can occur. For this reason it’s best that you look out for and avoid all metal surfaces on the sidewalk during periods of ice and snow. If your dog should scream or yelp suddenly without warning, move them away as quickly as possible as they may be suffering a shock. Of course it’s not always possible to see under snow and ice, which means you can’t always be sure there isn’t metal underneath. For this reason, you should seriously consider fitting your dog with rubber soled boots which will insulate them from current.
- Don’t let your dog jump into snow drifts Dogs that love snow go crazy for deep snow drifts. They’ll literally dive into them and leap around like it’s the greatest activity in the world. While this is extremely cute and fun to watch, you should discourage it. Snow drifts on the sides of city streets can form literally overnight, often concealing trash that was put out the night before. Trash bags can contain sharp or protruding objects which can injure a dog. Even worse, the drift could be concealing something particularly dangerous like an old broken mirror or electrical appliances with sharp edges. Save snow-frolicking for the park or the dog run!
- Cut walks short in extreme weather While most dogs are hardy creatures and tolerant of cold weather, never keep your dog out for too long when the weather is extreme or frigid. Sub zero temperatures with a wind-chill factor can be as dangerous for dogs as they are for humans. Small dogs especially are prone to frostbite — and remember that frigid air can be damaging to a dogs lungs. While your dog will probably tell you when they want to go back inside, don’t be afraid to play the over-concerned killjoy parent and cut their walk short. Take them out for toilet duties and bring them back in — you can always make up the exercise through indoor play.
Take good care and there is no reason why you and your dog should enjoy your walks together any less in winter months than during any other season!
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Source: James T. Phillips