A good romp in a Winter Wonderland is sometimes exactly what your dog needs to stave off cabin fever. To make sure you and your pet enjoy the season, lets learn more about the needs of your fur kid.
First off, the temperate fall days where your dog could romp in the yard and play outside all day have passed. Cold weather means no more leaving your dog outside for long periods of time. When they are outside, they must have a warm spot to retreat to with fresh-unfrozen water. Their bed must be off the ground and bedding should be thick, dry and regularly changed.
First Time in the Snow?
Take a moment to look at your dog. Was he built for the snow?
Or was he made for warmer climates?
Thick fur coats are great for winter! A jacket or cute coat is needed for every-doggy else and there is a great selection so go have some fun with it.
Get doggy booties if you intend to spend a lot of time outdoors this winter. Stay with me now. Booties aren’t goofy fru-fru items. There is a reason professional dog sled racers wear them.
They should be worn with pride… after the initial adjustment of having weird things on your paws. The ground is cold and the snow hides ice, broken bottles and all sorts of hazards. How long can you keep your bare hand on the ground before it hurts? That’s your test for doggy paws. Too hot? Too cold? protect those paws!
Has your pooch been to the vet recently? If not, this is a great time to make sure there aren’t any health concerns to be cautious of out in the snow. Some illnesses can make them more susceptible to the elements.
Now Get Suited up and go play!
For smaller dogs and to keep your yard free of anymore land mines, shovel a path to a sheltered potty location. Some doggos don’t really want to put their paws in the snow and that could lead them to going potty indoors. Head this off by putting your dog on leash and leading them to the sheltered area to potty. Reward them greatly for using it properly, then off with the leash and…
Commence Play Time!
Keep it short the first few times out in the snow to acclimate your dog to the cold temperature and to learn how they react so you know how much time they are going to want to be out. Call it early if you can so being outside in the cold is a good experience.
While you are out Leash Up!
If your backyard is enclosed and safe, feel free to let them off leash after potty time. If you are not in a secured location, please keep your dog on a leash. There is no telling when a car is going to slide out or when fences are down. What animals are going to come after you or what patch of snow is actually thin ice over a deep water source. Don’t risk it. Keep your fur kid safely beside you.
No eating or licking anything.
That colored pool of sweet liquid in the driveway could just be antifreeze. Antifreeze poisoning is horrible to watch. Don’t try it. Clean up any puddles in your driveway and watch for them in any other driveways or parking structures.
Don’t eat colored snow. I mean… gross!
Eating clean fresh snow is alright, as long as it is small amounts. Large amounts can lower core temperature and lead to hypothermia.
Stay Away from Ice
Slipping on the ice can cause serious injury, or muscle strain at the very least.
Falling through thin ice into a lake or frozen over pond is nearly instant hypothermia. If they take you in with them, who will know to come to your rescue?
Its a freezing world out right now. Stay dry!
Keep an Eye on Your Dog.
Anytime you are out is cause to keep an eye on your furry friend. In the cold, watch them for shivering, alternating paws to keep them off the cold ground, not moving at all or any signs of distress. Any of these signs means it’s time to go back inside and warm up.
After Romping in the Snow:
Take booties and jackets off and hang to dry.
Brush any snow out of the fur and towel dry. Wet = Cold. There is no warming up when your fur is damp or wet.
Wash and inspect paws. If you don’t have time for a warm water wash, at least use a baby wipe to clean out any rock salt, ice, chemicals or dirt that has accumulated between those soft toes. Or look into a paw cleaner to scrub away the dirty snow.
Check ears. Bacteria loves warm, moist areas like your dogs ear. Keep them dry and clean. Do not put anything in the ear canal, just towel them off in any reachable place and make sure they look clean. Might even want to give it a smell and make sure it isn’t rank or yeasty. Yes, vet techs and veterinarians often have their nose in ears. It’s time you picked up the habit.
All dry? Put a dry jacket on your short furred friends and put them in a warm spot to rest. Unless you are training your dog to accept booties, leave booties off indoors. Again, bacteria love warm, moist places. Let those toes air dry.
Special Note about Paw Pads:
Winter is hard on skin. Keep hydrated to keep skin healthy and watch for cracked, dry paw pads. While you’re warming up, a nice foot massage with your vets favorite moisturizer or Burts Bees Nose and Paw Lotion can go a long way to keep paw pads strong and healthy, accustom your dog to paw handling and increase your relationship. I mean, who doesn’t love a good foot massage?
Not Warming Up?:
If the sound isn’t too scary, a hair dryer on a low setting can be used to dry and warm your dog. Just don’t blow on face, ears or paw pads and put your hand is in between the dryer and the dog in a nice fluffing, petting motion to make sure they aren’t getting too hot and to get that warm air into the fur. If it hurts your hand, it’s way too much for your dog.
Add some white rice to a sock, secure the sock closed and microwave it until it feels warm on your skin. Use it as a warming pad and cover your pooch in a blanket.
Rice Warning: Do not wash the sock with the rice in it. It smells funny for a long while after you make cooked rice in the washer and dryer and DO NOT USE if your dog will eat the rice. Pets, people, everyone, should never eat uncooked rice.
It doesn’t matter how thick the fur, dogs can still get hypothermia, especially when damp or wet. Check with your veterinarian anytime you are concerned.