Image Credit: Flickr: John Talbot
During the winter months we two-footers tend to slow down a little. It’s cold and daylight is in short supply, can you blame us? We tend to stay indoors more and vege out. But our doggy friends still need to get their exercise and play. And let’s face it what’s good for them is good for us too. So, here are some tips and ideas on keeping your dog warm and active during the winter.
First some general tips:
- If you shave or trim your dog in summer, stop in the fall and let your dog’s hair grow naturally. Given that you’re letting your pooch go au natural, it’ll be wise to keep the fur brushed to prevent matting and tangling.
- If the weather is very cold, take shorter walks so your dog and you don’t get too cold.
- Clean salt from your dogs feet after every walk. Too much salt is really not good for anything. Not your arteries, not your car, and not their skin. It’s just plain irritating.
- Snow can form little icy balls that stick to the dog’s hair or between his toes, so make sure to check and clean these off.
- Only bathe your dog indoors during the winter months and make sure he is dry completely before going outside. We’re looking for exercise here, not a pooch-sicle.
Larger dogs with thick coats are quite happy to stay outside during the winter months, this includes breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.
Leaving your dog outside? Here are some things to consider:
- If your dog hasn’t been living outside, start putting your dog outside early in the fall. This will give the dog time to grow the thick undercoat needed for winter warmth.
- An appropriate shelter is off the ground, has a sloped roof, and insulation. Also, make sure that rain cannot get into the shelter by protecting the entrance.
- Consider using fresh straw inside the shelter for extra warmth or choose a thick dog bed (or even a heated bed).
- Make sure your dog’s water bowl doesn’t get frozen over (check regularly or buy a heated water bowl).
- Talk to your vet about your dog’s energy requirements during winter. You may need to give additional food.
- Bring your dog inside during extremely cold spells.
Keeping Active Outside
It is very important to keep your dog active during the winter months as a sedentary dog is more susceptible to illness or injuries. Most dogs enjoying playing in the snow and this will burn a lot of energy. Afterwards, dry your dog well and check for snow balls in your dog’s fur and between his foot pads.
Some dogs have a more difficult time generating and retaining enough body heat on their own, such as smaller dogs, elderly or chronically ill dogs, and dogs with short fur. An extra layer in the form of a jacket or sweater will protect these dogs from the cold. In addition to a sweater, your dog could benefit from booties to protect his feet from frostbite, prevent the build-up of snow balls between the foot pads, and protect his feet from salt or chemicals used by people in their snow removal efforts.
Tips on choosing doggy clothes:
- For sweaters choose a blend of washable wool and acrylic, or consider getting a waterproof jacket.
- To size your dog, measure around the neck, largest part of the chest, and the distance from neck to waist. Knowing your dog’s weight will also help in choosing the correct size.
- It is best to take your dog with you when shopping for a jacket or sweater as returns are often difficult.
- Check the fit around the “armpit” area and neck to make sure your dog can move easily but without it being too loose.
- Make sure there is nothing on the jacket or sweater that can be chewed off and swallowed, such as zippers, hooks, or buttons. You’d think manufacturers would take this into account when designing these but sometimes fashion sense overcomes common sense. Be sure to leave the fashion for you.
- To size your dog’s feet for booties, make sure he’s standing. Put the dog’s paw on a piece of paper trace around it. Then use a ruler to work out the dimensions and compare to sizing charts.
Keeping Active Indoors
On days you can’t go outside due to the weather, you’ll have to meet the dog’s need for play and exercise indoors. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Make mealtimes interesting by making your dog work for it. Treats and meals can be put in a treat-dispensing toy that will keep your dog busy for quite a while.
- Teach your dog some new tricks that require some energy such as handstands, balancing on a small or wobbly object, or going up and down step ladders.
- If you have stairs in your house, play fetch up and down the stairs for some good exercise.
- If you have a treadmill, train your dog to use it. Take it slow at first until the dog is used to it and then speed up for exercise.
- Schedule a playdate with a doggy friend. Just get your breakables out of the way first!
- Dogs love to chew things, so get some good chew toys. Chewing will also tire your dog out and it is great for their teeth.
As you can see, your dog can thrive even during the cold winter months. There are wonderful choices in doggy clothes for extra protection, heated dog beds and water bowls can keep your outside dog happy, and with a bit of creativity your dog and you will have plenty of fun indoors too.