Taking care of your dog this winter
After the cold snap this week, we felt inspired to give you some tips for keeping your dog warm and happy during the winter months. Not every dog needs a coat – but they all need a daily walk – whatever the weather - so make sure you are taking good care of them and don’t be a fair-weathered friend.
Many breeds of dog are not affected by the cold, particularly those originating from colder climates such as Huskies or Malamautes and those with shaggier coats, like German Shepherds and Collies. However, dogs with smooth coats such as staffies or whippets do feel the cold and are also less inclined to step out in the rain as they feel it a lot more on their backs than a hairier pooch might. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas and terriers struggle the most in cold conditions so make sure they are warm and take notice if they are shaking or whining it probably means that something is wrong.
If you have a terrier or a smooth haired dog, it is worth investing in a practical, waterproof dog coat for their walks. Make sure it is washed regularly and fits well, not so tight that it rubs or so loose that it snags on things when they are out and about. Unless your home is very cold it is a good idea to take the coat off again once they are indoors or they won’t ‘feel the benefit’ when they go outside. Try moving their bed to a warmer part of the house, next to a radiator, with some additional fleecy blankets if required. If your house is cold or you are leaving them at home with the heating off when you are at work then you might want to invest in a doggy jumper or two so that your dog is not left shivering.
Walking through Winter
Although we have passed the shortest day, it still gets dark very early and if you are walking your dog in the gloom before or after work, then make sure both of your are visible. We suggest putting an LED collar or high vis coat on your dog and wearing a high vis and lights yourself. If you’re walking in town, choose well lit routes and stay away from busy roads if possible. If you are walking in the country take a torch and only let your dog off the lead if you know that they are going to be safe.
If you’re walking in the evening, check the sunset time before you set off (most weather apps have this) if it looks like it’s going to get dark when you are out, take some lights and wear reflective clothing so that you both remain safe throughout the walk.
Ice and frost can cause problems, especially in the dark so plan your route carefully and stay away from any trouble spots. Don’t let your dog walk out onto any ice such as a frozen lake because they may get into difficulties if the ice cracks. If you’re planning a long walk in the ice or snow take some water for your dog to drink as their usual water sources en route may be frozen too.
If the weather really is too bad to venture outside, your dog might literally begin to bounce off the walls! On these occasions it may be time to find some fun activities that you can do together indoors to keep your dog happy and healthy.
If you have the space, try playing fetch with a soft toy, being careful that there is enough room and that your dog is not going to knock anything over if they are racing around indoors. If you have friend or family at home with you, try playing a game of ‘doggy in the middle’ throwing a ball to and from each other whilst your dog tries to catch it.
You can also try hiding food or toys and get the whole family involved with an indoor game of hide and seek. If you’re busy put some treats inside a Kong toy (or similar) to keep them mentally stimulated and entertained.
If space is limited put some music on and have a dance with your dog. Some breeds of dog – especially lurchers - enjoy dancing or running from room to room and moving around together in a game of chase.
This could also be a good time to teach your dog some new tricks, from basics such as sit and stay to rolling over. There are plenty or great dog training videos on YouTube and as we mentioned last week. It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
(Main Pic: Wintery dog walk: Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash)