Venturing out for a walk with your dog in the middle winter does come with a number of hazards, but armed with common sense and remembering that if you’re feeling cold and miserable your dog probably is too, you can enjoy your winter walks together.
Here are my 7 tips for walking your dog safely this winter.
1. Consider investing in a dog coat and booties
If the temperature is very cold you might think about buying your dog a coat, particularly if your dogs sensitive to the cold.
Most dog coats will cover your dog’s back and sides, but for extra warmth go for a coat that extends from the neck to the tail and also keeps the tummy and chest warm.
Sweaters are a good alternative because they cover all these areas and don’t need a belt to keep the coat in place.
Dogs lose the majority of their body heat through their paws so you could consider investing in some booties for your dog’s paws to keep him warm.
2. Keep your dog on a leash
Unless you are walking within a fenced area resist the temptation to let your dog off his leash for a run.
The snow and cold weather is very good at muffling scents, and dogs can easily become lost as their ability to follow their scent track back to you is dramatically reduced.
Do make sure you dog is wearing an up to date identification tag so if he does slip his leash and become separated from you, you have a chance of finding him again.
3. Keep away from frozen ponds and lakes
The thickness of ice is very deceptive – the safest thing for you and your dog is to stay away from frozen ponds and lakes.
4. Don’t let your dog drink from puddles
Puddles can contain a number of hazards, particularly when you are in the city – antifeeze, screen wash and salt can all be toxic to your dog if swallowed.
5. Know when your dog’s had enough
Be aware of the signs that your dog is getting cold – such as whining, shivering, looking anxious and moving more slowly. If your dog is showing any of these signs make your way home as quickly as you can.
If your dog is wet from walking through the snow he will chill quickly, and even more quickly if he’s wearing a coat that’s got wet – you may be better to take his coat off altogether if it’s wet through.
As your dog chills the risk of hypothermia increases, and if there is a strong windchill then there is a risk of frostbite too.
6. Make sure people can see you
If you are walking early in the morning or in the evening make sure you and your dog are wearing some bright and/or reflective clothing so you can easily be seen by
Reflective vests, collars and flashing collar lights all increase the visibility of your dog and reduce the risk of him being hit by a car.
7. Returning from your walk
After your walk it’s a good idea to wipe your dog’s paws, legs and belly to remove any snow and ice balls that are clinging to his coat, and to wash his paws to remove any mud, salt or other chemicals he may have picked up on your walk.
Salt and de-icing products can be toxic if ingested and cause the paw pads to dry out and crack. Click here for more on winter paw care.
If your dog got wet on your walk, dry him off and watch for any signs of hypothermia – you might want to put a dry dog coat on him or wrap your dog in a blanket until you’re confident he’s warmed up.
If you have any other outdoor tips, please share them.