As the weather gets colder we need to make sure that our dogs are healthy, warm and able to cope with the chills and spills of winter.
Walking in the wind, wet and snow
Snow can quickly build up round your dog’s feet and legs and even their bellies, depending on how much snow there is or how tall your dog is. There are various items of dog clothing that can help protect their feet and legs, from little boots to waterproof suits, if needed.
After each walk, check your dog's coat for any entangled objects and check between your dog’s pads for stones or hardened mud. Clean between their pads and toes to prevent salt and ice from causing irritation. A warm bowl of water should do the trick. Don’t use hot water - you don’t want to give your dog chilblains or cause any discomfort. If your winter walks are often over icy or snowy ground or across salt gritted areas, get your dog some comfortable and outdoor protective dog boots.
If you walk your dog near water, don’t let your dog off the lead. An ice skating session can soon turn into disaster if the ice is weak and breaks. If your dog does get loose and falls through the ice, don’t go after them. Current death statistics show that your dog is more likely to survive this kind of accident than you are.
If your dog is susceptible to the cold, kit them out with warm or waterproof dog coat. Even a dog who does not suffer from the cold may benefit from a waterproof jacket in wet weather.
Don’t forget to treat yourself to some warm clothes and sensible outdoor footwear too. Walks won’t be enjoyable and may be cut short if you are wet and cold.
It is also worth bearing in mind that walks on wet grass will not wear down your dog’s nails as much as the hard ground of summer. Check your dog’s nails and cut or file them down if they get too long.
Walking in the dark
Winter walks can mean dark walks. If you are walking in the dark, don’t forget to wear some reflective clothing. Even a reflective band or sash will help you to be seen. Your dog can wear something reflective too. Or why not try a dog safety collar that actually lights up.
Lumitube is lightweight and waterproof. It doesn't just glow in the dark, it is fully illuminated with bright LED lights and visible all around the dog's neck.
Bringing the outdoors in
A common problem in wet weather after toilet breaks and walks is your dog bringing the wet and mud in with them when they come back through the door. One option is to buy a special doormat that traps mud and water. I particularly like ones that can be washed in the washing machine. Another idea is to train your dog to wait at the door instead of racing inside with wet feet. A basic sit command at the door is all that is required. This gives you the opportunity to gently wipe their feet before they go indoors.
It is not only the inside of your home that suffers with wet and muddy foot prints. If you are concerned about the interior of your car you can kit it out with blankets or old towels or buy a special car boot or seat liner.
Sleeping in comfort
As the nights get colder, don’t forget to check out your dog’s sleeping area. Is it warm and cosy enough for those cold winter nights? Don’t forget, there can be draughts down on the floor that we aren’t necessarily aware of, so get down on your hands and knees and check it out. If the area is draughty, block any drafts or get your dog a cosy high sided dog bed or fleecy dog bed.
If your dog lives in an outdoor kennel for any period of time, check that it is enclosed enough to cope with the winter months. Also check for draughts and leaks that might have occurred since last year. Annual maintenance is essential. Even better - bring them inside.
From mild fear to hair raising anxiety, many dogs are affected by fireworks. For tips on dealing with the firework season, see our article Dog Fireworks Fear and Surviving Bonfire Night. Be aware that a dog that showed mild fear last year could show greater fear this year. If their fear has escalated, nip it in the bud now.
Trick or Treat
If your dog is likely to get upset when excited children or children in Halloween costumes come knocking on the door, either don’t answer the door or make sure your dog is in another room or is suitably distracted. What may be a harmless ghoul costume to us could be seen as a potential threat to our dogs. If you have a bag of treats to hand out, make sure they are kept out of reach of your dog.
Most dogs love this time of year. The rain makes all the usual smells on walks more exciting, the weather is invigorating and indoor central heating can get so stuffy.
The fresh air and change of scenery will do everyone good. Get out there and enjoy it.