Does the uncertainty of not knowing whether to walk your dog in wintry weather drive you barking mad? Dog training and behaviourist expert Philippa Short shares her top tips for keeping your dog warm and safe on winter walks.
First things first – look outside at the weather. If it’s snowing, raining heavily or hailing, don’t take your pup out. If hail is painful to human skin, it’s certainly not going to feel nice for your dog.
If you get caught in any of these conditions after you’ve already set off on your walk, try and find shelter until it stops. Turn back if you’re close enough to home or your car and it’s safe to do so.
Has harsh weather made going out a no-no? There’s plenty of other indoor enrichment activities to keep your dog entertained. You could try:
How long you should walk a dog in cold weather depends on:
If your dog has a weatherproof coat they’re comfortable wearing (and fits properly without restricting their movement or breathing), then walks can be longer. Don’t have a coat or their fur isn’t thick enough to keep them warm? You may need to limit their walk to a brisk five minutes, or don’t walk them at all.
The easiest way to see if your canine could brave the cold is by letting them take the lead (well, figuratively speaking anyway). You’ll be able to tell that it’s too cold for them because they’ll look uncomfortable or visibly shake. Rather than distress them, try some energetic indoor play with your pooch instead.
If going out, dog walkers should:
Many pups are able to safely walk in cold weather without it hurting their paws. What you’ll want to watch out for is your dog slipping in muddy or icy conditions. Dogs with arthritis may have a flare-up if they skid around a lot on mud or ice.
If you think your dog has injured itself or is showing signs of pain and distress from an arthritis flare-up, speak to a vet. With a Petsure policy, you can video chat with a FirstVet vet any time of day for advice and treatment recommendations.
Another thing to keep in mind during colder weather is your dog getting muscle injury from tensing up their body. To help prevent this:
While the cause of Alabama Rot is unknown, it’s more prominent in winter months when dogs roam around in mud and woodland. To avoid this illness, be sure to wash your dogs legs and feet after they’ve visited these kinds of areas.
Dogs can walk in the snow, but always be wary of what could be covered up by the snow. Think possible broken or hazardous objects and uneven surfaces. If in doubt, keep them on the lead. Steer clear of walking in areas where the snow is thicker than two inches deep, just to be on the safe side.
Snow could also get trapped and build up in the fur between your dog’s paws and this could be quite painful and tricky to remove. Take preventative steps by giving their paw fur a trim before heading out. Gently dip their paws in a bowl of warm water when you get back to help defrost any trapped snow and ice, then pat dry.
As it’s difficult to tell who or what’s been there before you, try not to let your dog eat snow. There may be something hidden within that icy blanket that’s not safe to swallow.
Having your dog’s favourite treats to hand could help distract them from chomping down on snow.
It’s also important to be aware of antifreeze during winter months. Antifreeze can pool under cars into a highly toxic puddle, and your pup’s snoot may be attracted to its scent. As much as possible, keep your dog from sniffing or licking areas where cars have been parked.
It’s never recommended to keep your dog outside in the cold weather for long periods of time. Winter walks can get messy, so:
With a Petsure lifetime dog insurance policy, you could have peace of mind that your dog is covered in an emergency.