Winter is a difficult period to take your dog out for walks, particularly if your place is prone to snow, ice and freezing winds. But skimping on the much-needed exercise can have a negative impact on your dog’s health and behavior. When his physical needs are curtailed, he seeks out other ways to release energy, such as chewing and other hyperactive behavior. And such traits could potentially linger.
The cold isn’t reason enough for you to skip your dog’s walk, but shortening your routine can be a good choice in severe weather. Be sure to pay attention – if your dog is shivering, shifting his feet a lot, cowering or attempting to head back home, listen to him and go back indoors. Here are a few tips for managing your walks in winter.
Dress Your Pet (and Yourself) Appropriately
For walks in winter, pile on the outfits — thermal underwear or a long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings can be worn underneath your usual dressing to help retain body heat. Use a heavy-duty winter coat to top these off. Cover your head and hands. Gloves with grip or traction make it easier for you to keep a hold on the leash. A thinner pair of gloves can allow you to easily handle things like picking up after your pet and holding dishes and delivering treats. Waterproof shoes are appropriate in extreme conditions, and rugged heels can increase footing on slick surfaces.
Most dogs can tolerate the cold for short durations, but some breeds require additional help to stay warm. This is especially important for puppies, smaller breeds, elderly dogs and shorter-haired/ hairless dogs. Choose an appropriate vest or jacket made for the cold and that repels moisture. Always ensure that the clothing remains dry.
Keep Paws Warm and Protected
Protect pet paws with doggie shoes. In the winter, paws are at increased risk from chemicals (deicers) used on the ground — many of the salts and ice de-fosterers are toxic to animals— and combined with freezing temperatures, it can cause paws to dry up and develop cracks. Look for shoes with secure traction and straps that can hold them snugly in place. Train your pet to wear shoes with treats. Once the shoes are on, immediately head out on a walk or shift his attention to an activity, like food.
Bare paws can be given further protection by using pet-safe gels. They can help protect your canine pads from the wintertime cold. Take care to prevent your dog from licking his paws and ingest the gel. Keep nails and hair between the paw pads trimmed to prevent snow and dirt accumulation.
Keep a Tight Leash
Walking a dog on slick winter ground is tough, especially so with larger breeds. A front clip harness is ideal to prevent him pulling away. Use a leash of fixed length rather than a retractable one for better control. A jogger’s leash that goes around your waist and attaches to the dog’s collar can also be useful. In the event that you slip or trip up, this leash leaves your hands free while your pet stays hooked.
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