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What You Need to Know About Dog Walking in Winter

The weather outside might be getting colder, but that doesn’t mean you should give up dog walking in winter.  How else is your furry friend going to get enough exercise?

But you have to be careful when dealing with cooler weather.  Dr. Ari Zabell, a veterinarian in Vancouver, Washington at Banfield Pet Hospital, says, “Pets left outside for too long can suffer from hypothermia and frostbite.” 

You can avoid these risks by following our advice about how to exercise your dog in winter.  It’s also a good idea to speak with your veterinarian about the safest way to walk your dog in the cool season. 

Schedule Daytime Walks

Daytime walks aren’t possible for everyone, but if your schedule allows it, walk your dog before night.  Strolling through the neighborhood during the day won’t be as cold as a nighttime walk.  And it will be easier for drivers to see you, which will keep you and your dog safe.

Regularly Check Your Dog’s Body Temperature

No matter what time you walk your dog, you must be on the lookout for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.  Pause your walk frequently so that you can make sure your dog isn’t getting too cold.

You can do this by putting your hand against your dog’s body.  A warm body indicates your furball is fine. 

Your dog’s ears, feet, and limbs are the most likely body parts to suffer from the cold, so pay extra close attention to them.

And even if your pup doesn’t get frostbite, a chilly dog is an unhappy dog.  This could diminish your dog’s desire to go on future walks.

Pay Close Attention to Your Dog’s Paws

As already mentioned, your dog’s feet are more at risk of experiencing the negative effects of winter weather than other body parts.  You can’t overlook the need to protect your dog’s paws.

Dog shoes can help keep your dog’s feet nice and warm. There are many different options on the market, so you are bound to find something that is perfect for your pooch. 

Go the extra mile by putting socks underneath the boots.  This will trap even more heat, keeping the warmth from escaping your dog’s feet.

Of course, not every dog will put up with wearing booties and socks.  If your dog refuses to wear them, be extra careful during your walks. 

Keep checking your dog’s feet to ensure they aren’t too cold.  You can also trim your dog’s toe hair to prevent ice accumulation.

Keep Your Dog Out of the Snow

Many dogs don’t have fur covering their bellies, which is why you shouldn’t let your canine play in the snow during the middle of a walk.   Instead, keep your dog on the sidewalk.

However, you can allow your dog to play in the snow if you are close to home.  Just keep the session short and get your dog inside and warmed up immediately after.

But don’t let your dog eat the snow. Consuming snow will decrease your dog’s body temperature. 

Plus, you never know what kinds of chemicals or other hazards could be in the snow.  It’s best to play it safe and just say no when your dog tries to eat snow.     

Keep Your Walks Short

Another way to prevent cold-related issues is to shorten your dog’s walks during the winter months.  When the weather starts to warm up again you can extend the walks to their full length. 

Dress Your Dog in a Jacket

Wearing a jacket keeps us warm, so why couldn’t it help our pets?  Putting some winter dog clothes on your furry friend is a great way to keep your dog’s body temperature warm during cold walks.

The types of dogs that most benefit from this added layer of warmth are:

  • Breeds with short, thin coats;
  • Small dogs;
  • Dogs that lack an undercoat.

When looking for just the right jacket, here are two great options:

  • Modern Dog Jacket - This stylish jacket is super comfy. Your pet can wear it all day, as long as it doesn’t get wet from the snow. This jacket is easy to put on and slip off and will help keep your pet warm.
  • Pet Dog Pullover - This is another fashionable and cozy jacket that is comfy and warm.  It’s perfect for a walk or lounging around the house.     

Make sure to choose the right size when buying winter dog clothes. Ill-fitting clothes make your dog uncomfortable, which will cause your pup to hate wearing jackets. 

Dr. Lauren Cohn, a veterinarian in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Fishtown Animal Hospital, suggests to, “Make sure that clothing isn’t too tight around the neck, armpits and groin.” 

Dr. Cohn goes on to say, “You should be able to comfortably fit two fingers to make sure it’s not too tight.”

Dogs who haven’t worn clothes before will need a little time to get used to it.  Allow your dog to wear the jacket around the house a few times before showing it off on a walk around the block. 

And remember, a wet jacket will actually end up decreasing your dog’s body temperature.  You should have several coats on hand so that you can change your dog’s jacket when the need arises. 

Try Some Indoor Activities

Sometimes, you really can’t take your dog outside.  This could be the case if:

  • Your dog hates the cold and can’t be persuaded to venture outdoors.
  • The weather is far too extreme to safely take a walk or spend time outside.
  • You get too nervous about the risks of walking your dog in the cold.

In those cases, try to entertain your dog inside.  Check out our top 12 ideas to keep your dog from getting bored inside to learn how to exercise your dog in winter.

But dog walking in winter is definitely possible.  You just have to be careful and pay close attention to your dog’s body warmth.  If you act responsibly, there is no reason why the two of you can’t enjoy your walks during the cold season.

References

Bauhaus, J. M. (2019, October 30). The Challenges of Walking Your Dog in Winter. From Hill's: https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/play-exercise/walking-dog-in-winter

Dyck, A. (2015, January 22). 25 TIPS FOR WALKING YOUR DOG IN WINTER. From Homes Alive Pets: https://blog.homesalive.ca/tips-for-walking-your-dog-in-winter

How to Keep Your Dog Safe During Fall and Winter Walks. (n.d.). From Pet Hub: https://www.pethub.com/article/how-keep-your-dog-safe-during-fall-and-winter-walks

Weymouth, M. (n.d.). How to Keep a Dog Warm in Winter Weather. From Pet MD: https://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/how-keep-dog-warm-winter-weather

Kristina Tyler is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in pet care topics.  With her life-long love of animals and passion for learning, she thoroughly enjoys researching and writing about how to care for pets.  In her spare time, she teaches Sunday School classes, creates hand drawn pictures of animals, and devours the latest books by her favorite authors.  She lives in California with her adorable kitty named Chloe and attends classes at the local community college.   

 

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