Not everyone always embraces winter, especially those who live in a region with cold, snowy winters. Your pup might not either, as it means her walking program could be put on hiatus.
Winter Dog Walk Yet don’t let Old Man Winter get the best of your walks; there’s good reason to continue your walking program through winter. "Dogs thrive on routine,” says Jerry Klein, D.V.M., supervising veterinarian at Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center. "Walking also provides mental and physical stimulation dogs need, especially if they’re alone all day.” Just take precautions to keep you and your pup safe.
For starters, know there will be likely be days when the weather will be too cold or nasty to walk. "If the forecast says it’s unsafe for people to be outside, it’s probably unsafe for animals, too,” Klein says. And of course, if you have a dog with health challenges or an elderly pup, both of whom are more susceptible to cold-weather issues, it’s probably best to skip the walk when conditions are frigid and icy..
If the weather is walkworthy, outfit your pup with winter walking apparel. Your first concern? Feet. "Dogs’ paws are sensitive, and ice and salt can bother them,” says Klein, who wasn’t a believer in dog boots until last year’s harsh Chicago winter. He bought the footwear for his two Afghan Hounds when they began whining and picking up their feet on walks.
Boots shouldn’t be too loose or snug; visit the manufacturer’s website to learn how to measure your dog’s paws so you get the proper fit. Then acclimate your pup to the boots, putting on only one boot on at a time indoors, Klein says. Progress to two boots, and let her walk around. Keep doing this until your dog is walking inside with all four boots on. If, you decide to not use boots, wipe salt off her paws after the walk.
Next, depending on your dog, consider a coat or sweater. A dog with short hair and/or low body fat can get cold quickly, and outfitting her in a coat or sweater helps her core temperature remain stable. Small dogs, elderly dogs, and those with chronic health issues also benefit from wearing an extra layer to keep warm.
When buying a coat, don’t make cuteness the deciding factor. "You’re buying the coat for comfort and safety, so make sure it’s properly fit,” Klein says. Many pet supply stores let you bring your dog in to get fit for the right size. Measure neck to tail length, from the base of the neck to the base of the tail along top of her back; girth, a measurement around the broadest part of the chest, just behind the front legs; neck circumference; and weight. The most important consideration is that the coat doesn’t constrict your dog’s breathing, or include loose or dangling parts she could rip off and swallow.
Finally, check that you’re prepared, too. Dress in layers, especially on your upper body to keep your core temperature warm, and wear shoes — and even traction devices for ice and packed snow, advises the American College of Sports Medicine.