4 Winter Dangers Most Dog Owners Ignore
Your pooch needs plenty of exercise during the winter.
While many dog parents would prefer to hibernate during the winter season, the truth is that your pooch needs just as much exercise during the colder months as he does the rest of the year.
“As a dog trainer, we often see dogs essentially jailed in the house for winter,” says certified dog trainer Kristi Benson, CTC. “Dogs need daily exercise and enrichment (which is mental exercise) to be healthy and happy members of our family, and a lack of walks has potentially drastic welfare implications.”
Before you head out for some winter fun, however, here are some dangers you should be in the lookout for.
Danger #1: Heading Out Without a Plan
Even if you don’t have your radio or TV tuned to hear the latest weather forecasts, it’s essential to know what kind of weather you might face while you’re out for a walk, according to Dana Humphrey, a pet expert who regularly appears at pet trade shows and consumer events, as well as media outlets such as Fox, ABC, NBC and more.
“Keeping an easily readable digital thermometer next to the door will give you an up-to-the-second temperature reading before you head out, enabling you to make important last-minute decisions about what you should wear, and how you should dress your dog,” Humphrey says.
Danger #2: Unprotected Paws
To keep frost (and salt on the streets) from nipping sensitive paws, you might want to consider getting your dog some booties. “You wear warm boots that don’t slip in the snow, so it makes sense that you provide the same comfort and protection for your dog,” says Humphrey.
One word of caution about booties: chances are your dog will hate them (at least at first). “Booties, which are wonderful for keeping out painful salt, should be introduced slowly and properly,” says Benson. “When introduced well (using Pavlovian conditioning to help the dog enjoy the new experience of having something on their bodies), dogs should walk normally in them. If your dog is lifting her feet very high, it may look funny at first, but it’s an indication that they are finding the experience miserable.” Help them find comfort in their new shoes instead with some treats and some fun games while he gets used to them.
And if she still can’t stand booties? Look for paw balm, which creates a semi-permeable barrier to protect your pet’s pads from injury and pain. When shopping for paw balm, make sure you choose one made with all natural ingredients, so there’s no danger if your dog licks it unexpectedly.
Danger #3: Unprotected Bodies
Some dogs are built for winter, such as working dogs like Huskies. Others, like tiny dogs or those with very short hair, need a little help staying warm.
A good sweater or jacket can make a world of difference once it gets cold, but only if you pick the right one. If you live in an area where it snows or rains heavily, a sweater might not be the right choice—a sweater that gets wet can put your dog at risk for hypothermia, especially if he continues to wear the sweater outside while wet.
Danger #4: Less Daylight
In the winter, the sun sets earlier and rises later, especially in more northern areas. “Since most of the time we’re at home in the winters it is dark outside, we’re generally walking our dogs in the dark, when passing vehicles are less likely to spot us,” says Benson. “Vehicles that are also dealing with winter driving conditions including ice and snow.”
To offer protection, Benson recommends reflective clothing for yourself and your dog, such as harnesses, leashes, and collars. “Also, always walk with your dog on a leash in areas where leash laws are in effect and traffic is nearby—no dog is perfect off-leash if the exact right thing (for example, a squirrel) darts by,” says Benson. “And many people have dogs who find other dogs to be scary or upsetting, and these owners (and their dogs) always struggle with loose dogs in leash-required areas.” While these things are always dangerous, they’re even more dangerous in the darkness of winter.