For those of us who live in cold climates, walking dogs in cold weather can be tricky because we want to make sure our dogs are happy and getting enough exercise, but walking dogs in cold temperatures can be dangerous. It’s our job as responsible pet owners to know what’s best for our dog and stay within safe limits when walking the dog in winter.
Walking a Dog in Winter
You should definitely make changes to how, when, and how long you walk your dog during the winter. Here are a few tips to consider:
1. Does Your Dog Need a Coat? You can read my article, Do Dogs Need Coats in Winter? to determine if your dog is a breed that needs a coat. You might be surprised to learn that most dog breeds do not have the type of fur that constitutes a winter coat. The rule of thumb here is, unless you have a dog breed with an insulated coat, if you need a coat, then the dog needs a coat.
To find out whether your dog has a winter undercoat or not, check this printable list, Which Dog Breeds Need a Winter Coat? For winter, select a waterproof dog coat that covers the abdomen and chest. You can find a nice selection of dog coats HERE.
2. Protect Their Paws. Exposure to cold, ice and snow for long periods of time can not only be uncomfortable for your dog’s paws, but can also cause frostbite and damage to their pads. You can use winter boots to protect your dog’s paws. You can also apply a paw protectant wax. You might also consider using a paw-safe salt to melt snow and ice on your sidewalks and driveway. And always wipe your dog’s paws with dog paw wipes when they come back in to remove any salt or wax. If you have a small dog, you may want to wipe their bellies too.
I used to put a onesie on my miniature doxy under her winter coat to help keep her belly warm and dry in the winter (that’s her in the picture – she’s wearing a onesie under that adorable winter coat lol) Also be aware that a dog’s nose, toes, and the tips of their ears can also get too cold in the winter.
3. Use a different leash during winter. During colder months, you’re more likely to run into ice and slippery surfaces while walking your dog. You want to make sure you have your dog on a harness instead of a leash as it provides far more control that can actually help your dog if he’s slipping. If you have a dog that pulls on the leash, it’s even more important to have a shorter, non-retractable leash to keep him close to you and safe from hazards such as ice.
5. Make sure your dog isn’t getting too cold. If your dog is shaking, lifting its paws, whining or trying to head back toward home, he may be too cold. For more help on this, read my article, When is it Too Cold for Dogs? and watch my video, How to Tell if Your Dog is Too Cold.
How Cold is Too Cold for Dogs?
I suggest reading this article, Cold Temperature Guidelines for Dogs from PetMd for specifics on what temperatures are too cold for dogs. It goes into detail about the factors involved, such as your dog’s breed, age, coat, etc. But as a general rule, most dogs are ok outside above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it gets colder than 45 degrees, some dogs (small, elderly, short-haired) will start getting uncomfortable. Once the temperature falls below 32 degrees, dog owners should pay close attention to whether it’s safe for their dog to be outside and for how long. No dog should be outside for any longer than a quick poop and pee when it’s 20 degrees or below.
Make No Mistake!
Dogs exposed to cold temperatures can be at risk for frostbite, hypothermia (which can be fatal) and damage to their ears, toes, paws and tails. Not to mention how terribly uncomfortable it is for a dog whose owner is irresponsible, making the poor dog freeze and suffer. I live in Western New York. I see people regularly walking their dogs long distances in frigid temperatures.
Please…I’m begging you…share this article with your friends and family members who have dogs if you live in a cold climate. For more information about the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia for dogs in the winter, read this article by PetMD.
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