When it comes to caring for your dog in the winter, it is vital that you take the proper precautions to ensure your furry best friend enjoys these cold dark months. The normal routine you two have may need a little adjusting to provide a safe and healthy winter for the four-legged best friend in your life.
Steer clear of rock salt
Your dog may be accustomed to a certain walking route, but when winter comes sidewalks may be covered in rock salt to melt the ice. Rock salt may irritate the pads on your dog’s paws. Walking a dog through a dessert or rock salt is almost like a friend forcing you to walk over hot coal. Taking your dog away from the normal route can actually be a nice change for you both. For smaller dogs living in apartments you may have to carry your pup to a location where the salt is far less. For bigger dogs like mine, I will clear a quick path if there is no other way around the rock salt trap left there with good intentions. New Jersey winters can be brutal. Thankfully the last few have only had a few bad storms and my dog-friendly neighborhood will not use rock salt.
Make sure your dog gets the exercise they need
The colder it is the less likely you are to walk your dog for longer distances. Just because the sun is further away does not mean your pooch can slack off on his or her exercise routine. I had a backyard growing up where we could let the family dogs go out and run. Apartment life makes it much tougher, making you in charge of more of what your dog does. If getting your dog to walk outside in the cold is troublesome like it sometimes is with mine, motivate them to play indoors. I will spend time trying to get my dog to play with a ball or rope toy, knowing full well I can eventually convince him. Like us, dogs will gain weight in the winter due to inactivity. Make it a point where you can get some exercise together. Many doggy daycares have treadmills your dog can use if you feel your dog needs bonus workout time. For those who cannot keep up with their dog, organize a play date with another pup. Let the dogs tire each other out and have a lot of fun doing it.
‘Try out’ clothing when outside
Many dog owners like to dress their dogs up in the winter. This is usually unnecessary and more for show than providing warmth. Clothing is perfectly fine and can be effective during the winter months while your dog is outside. The most important thing to remember about clothing is comfort. Dogs have no shame so they see the clothing as pointless if it does not feel good. Clothing should only be worn for short periods of time to avoid discomfort. Bigger and older dogs will probably feel the need to tear their clothing off, as I have experienced many times before. Never leave clothing on your dog while unattended. You can convince yourself they enjoy it, but one day you may come home to a naked dog and a tattered doggy shirt you spent too much money on lying on the ground.
Monitor sleeping location
In the warmer months my dog likes to sleep in the bathroom where it’s much cooler than anywhere else. In the winter his sleeping location can vary. During times of weather extremes let your pet choose a general location where they are comfortable. The same way you would not let your dog sleep in a room without an air conditioner during a heat wave, you do not want your dog freezing during the middle of the night. Watch where your dog will go on colder days or nights and adjust accordingly. If they have a bed they like to sleep on, move it to their new sleeping location.
Dogs are incredible animals willing to adapt. Help guide your dog this and every following winter into finding a safe routine that works for you both.
For more information on caring for your dog in the winter visit American Kennel Club