Keeping your dog warm and happy during the colder months
The kids are heading back to school and as we arrive at the end of the summer holidays it is time to start thinking about how to care for our pets during the winter months. In a few weeks, on the 22nd September, we will reach the autumn equinox – the day (which happens twice a year) when the length of the night and day are equal. After that the nights start drawing in, the evenings will become darker and some of us might start to think about lighting the fire or putting the heating on. This week we’ve got some advice to help you keep your dog safe, warm and happy during the winter months.
Snug pug photo by Ashleigh Robertson on Unsplash
During the summer at home you may keep your back door open to allow your pet free flow access to your garden or outdoor space. During the winter it’s more likely you’ll be keeping the door shut to keep the heat in and the cold out. Pay attention to your dog. Let them out when they need to go and make sure you remember to let them back in again too. Most dogs are not used to extreme cold so don’t leave them outside unattended for long periods of time as they may develop frostbite or hypothermia.
Having said that, some dog breeds are not bothered by the cold at all. Dogs such as Huskies, Retrievers and German Shepherds have thick coats that protect them against the elements and you’ll rarely see one of these breeds wearing a coat or a jumper. However, other breeds do struggle to keep warm more than others. Short coated dogs such as whippets and staffies suffer more with the cold and don’t like the sensation of rain or snow on their backs - which could make them reluctant to go outside during inclement weather - so it may be a good idea to get them a cosy dog jumper or a rain coat to help them stay snug when they are outside. Just make sure that you only put it on when it is particularly cold or wet. If you keep on wrapping your dog up when the weather is mild – perhaps because they look cute in their coat or you want to match them to your outfit - then they may start to feel the cold more, or worse they may overheat because you have dressed them up unnecessarily. Likewise it is important to make sure that unless it is extremely cold indoors that you don’t dress your dog up at home or the won’t feel the benefit once they get outside.
Winter forest dog photo by Tadeusz Lakota on Unsplash
During a cold snap, some dogs may struggle to walk on frozen ground. Particularly older dogs who walk slowly or dogs with lots of fur on their paws which may become packed with ice and snow. If this is the case for your dog, you can buy special winter boots for them to wear. Shop for them in person if possible (rather than online) and look for ones which are well made, with velcro straps and a good sole. If your dog is the kind to go hooning around in the undergrowth then keep an eye on them in case their boots come off as you will usually have to buy a whole new set in order to replace one lost boot.
Wearing boots will make your dog’s paws much easier to clean, post walk too – although not all dogs will want to wear them. If this is the case, make sure your dog’s paws are cleaned thoroughly after your walk instead. Sometimes the grit and salt used to keep roads and footpaths clear of snow in winter can get In between their toes and cause irritation.
Warm whippet photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
If your dog appears to be cold when you are at home, try moving their bed to a warmer part of the house, give them some thick blankets and additional bedding and some extra cuddles too. If you’re going out to work and leaving the heating off, you might want to put a pet jumper on them too, to ensure that they aren’t too cold when they are home alone.
Black dog photo by Kate on Unsplash
Even if it is cold or stormy outside your dog will still need a walk in all weathers so make sure they are getting the exercise they need. Keep an eye on the weather report for the best time to walk your pooch. If it is too dangerous to go out – for example it’s very icy outdoors, then don’t put yourself at risk, try playing some indoor games - with regular toilet breaks – to prevent your dog from becoming frustrated or bored.
Blue dog coat on Bichon photo by Eric Tuazon on Unsplash
If you usually walk your dog in the early morning or the evening then you might find it is starting to become darker out there and you may need to take some extra precautions to protect them.
If you live in an urban area, stick to well lit areas such as parks or local streets. If you’re walking on country lanes, walk against the flow of traffic with your dog on your inside so they are protected from vehicles.
Wear something bright or reflective and consider dressing your dog in something high vis too – whether this is a coat or jacket, or a collar or lead that is lit with LEDs – perhaps even both. If you find a safe space to let your dog off for a run a light up collar can help you find them quickly too.
When walking in unlit areas carry a torch and shine it on your dog if a car comes towards you so that they are clearly visible in the traffic. If you have somewhere safe to play, try getting a light-up ball or frisbee to play with so that you don’t end up spending too long searching for your dog’s toys in the cold and dark.
Main Pic: Warm Westie photo by Ariana Kaminski on Unsplash
Do you have any tips for caring for your dog during the winter months? As always, let us know in the comments section below. We hope you and your pet stay safe and warm this winter.