9 simple tips for walking dogs in winter. Here we discuss ways to keep them safe, happy, warm and exercised, during those cold winter months.
Walking dogs in winter 9 top tips
9 Top Tips For Ensuring Your Dog Is Safe & Warm in Cold Weather
- Keep them active when out and about
- If your dog is a breed with no undercoat, then pop a coat on to compensate
- Clean paws and Coat after walking on paths and roads. Get rid of de-ice chemicals and salt
- Keep their coat free from knots and tangles so they dry quickly
- Check between your dogs toes for mud and snow that can contribute sore feet
- Stay away from frozen rivers and lakes
- Towel dry your dog and put a drying coat on them if still damp
- To Keep warm more energy is required. Your dog will need more food
- Enjoy times snuggled up by the fire with your buddy
Walking dogs in winter how they keep warm naturally
Most dogs have great coats already. Some breeds are better placed to deal with the cold than others. Dogs with double coats such as Huskies, Labradors and Golden Retrievers, will simply need a good dry down on your return and a drying coat popped on them for your journey home.
Dogs with thick undercoats may become more active in the winter months and enjoy their time out and about with more gusto.
Dogs with less hair such as Whippets and Grey Hounds may prefer to snuggle up at home more during the winter. Many will still enjoy their walks but we need to be aware that walks may need to be shorter, keep them on the move and pop a coat on them if they accept clothing.
Does your dog need a coat for winter walking?
Dogs breeds that have no undercoat and those who have been clipped will feel the cold instantly and they certainly need a coat to keep warm and dry with even small temperature drops.
When it comes to dogs with thicker coats or double coats, you should still dry them down as soon as you can. It all helps in keeping them fit and well.
Snow, Ice, Frozen Lakes, Rivers. Keep Your Dog safe
Snow is fun for many dogs. They can play for a very long time. It’s new and exciting. For dogs with longer coats, the snow tends to stick to their coats in balls. They will get colder quicker.
What once was a river or a lake will possibly be slightly frozen over. They can fall through and struggle to get out. Please keep your dogs away from their usual water frolic areas. You’d be the first to try to jump in to rescue them and then we have 2 victims.
Dogs health and age effects ability to cope on winter walks
A healthy dog is far more able to deal with colder weather than those suffering from any illness. It may be they are simply a little older, less active and less able to cope with the cold. Do give thought to popping a warm coat on them when out and about.
If your dog suddenly copes less well than they used to, do visit your vet to check they are fit and healthy. Be mindful that those dogs who have health issues such as heart conditions and arthritis will not cope as well.
Short-legged dogs and those with less hair on their underside will be sploshing through puddles and snow. These dogs will cool more rapidly and mean the time they spend outside is more limited than those with longer legs and longer natural double coats.
Dogs activity levels on a cold days
If they are running around they will be generating heat and keeping warm. Do be mindful, when they slow down for the lead walk home or are popped in the car, their temperature will drop. A towel down and a drying coat is good option to ensure they don’t lose too much heat and dry off quicker.
We love a hot chocolate or soup to warm us on winter days after a walk.
Leaving dogs to play alone on snow days
Many dogs love the snow and frost. They get the zoomies. They can play for ages. However, like children, they are not necessarily in touch with their own capabilities due to over-excitement. Be the one to call time and bring them inside for a dry down and a good warm-up before you let them out again ensures they are safe to enjoy the novelty of snow.
How do you know if your dog is cold?
This is all about the individual. One or more of the signs below tells you that it’s been too long and time to get back home as soon as possible to the warm and dry.
- Stops or lays down
Why clean dogs paws and coats after walks
Paws can get clogged up with snow and grit, so do check regularly when you are out and about as they will become sore if left. Your dog will also get colder quicker.
On returning from your walk do check their paws and rinse them as well as their coats (concentrating on the underside of their body)
We put de-icers on our windscreens, salt and sand mix on our roads. They are all irritants to the skin. Your dog will also lick them as they clean themselves, so best to get them clean and dry as soon as you get home.
Grooming your dog in winter
A well-groomed dog will be easier to dry off. If they have knots and mats in their hair then they dry slower and cool quicker.
Dogs need more food in winter to keep warm
Dogs, like us, expend energy keeping warm. You may have to up their food intake according to the weather. Just keep an eye on their weight and if they are losing then give them a fraction more and monitor.
Keep your dog hydrated
Ensure your dog has access to freshwater. They can dehydrate as much in cold weather as in hot.
Pick your winter dog walking times
If possible leave your walks until a little later when hopefully the sun is up or at least the temperature has gone up a notch or two. Take the opportunity when there is a break in the weather.
Cars on cold days
To pop your dog back in the car and carry on sledging is probably going to be counterproductive. The car is cold and you have a cold wet dog. Take them home or if you’ve got a family sledging session then maybe a short stand-alone dog walk later would be a far better option.
Rest days are great days
If your dog is so miserable and cannot tolerate the cold, that’s absolutely fine. Have a rest day with short trips out to do the necessaries.
Individual dogs on cold winter days
Some dogs like us feel the cold more readily. So know your dogs and if they shiver it may well be that they’re cold rather than anxious. Watch your dog. You know what their normal is.
About the author
Caroline has over 30yrs experience with dogs from gundogs to pet dogs. She has written “Why Does My Dog Do That? and Co-Author of “Parenting Your New Puppy” With Lesley Harris. Caroline also designed the Happy At Heel Harness to help educate dogs to stop pulling. If you’d like a consultation via Zoom or in-person do contact Caroline via the following email address for details firstname.lastname@example.org
Would you like to read more on dog behaviour? Follow the links below to guides written by our Canine Behaviourist Caroline Spencer