Romping Through the Snow: Knowing When to Call it Quits

Most dogs enjoy playing in the snow.

When the snow is light and fluffy, they plow through it sending billows of snow everywhere. They put their faces in it and scoop it out. They eat it. They roll in it. When it’s more packed and on an incline, they’ll slide down it.

Different dogs have different tolerances to cold based on their breed, coat density, how much time they spend outside, and other factors. But when dogs are having fun, they’re inclined to stay outside too long. Dogs can suffer from hypothermia—which can be life-threatening. Long before that, they get so cold they’re uncomfortable. Pet owners need to know when to bring their dogs in.

Signs to look for:

If you see your dog shivering, bring him in. Like humans, dogs shiver or shake when they’re cold to generate more body heat.

Your hound’s paws may get start to get too cold. The snow can pack between the toe and paw pads of a dog’s foot causing his feet to hurt. If he stops running around as much, has an anxious or pained look on his face, and/or starts holding his paws up one at a time, it’s time for him to come in.

Watch the dog’s body language. If he’s hunched, or if his tail is down or tucked instead of being up and wagging, he’s getting cold.

If you’re on a walk with your dog in the snow and he tries to head for home or starts looking for shelter, pay attention. That’s another clue that as fun as the snow is, the two of you have been our long enough and your dog is ready to get warm.

You should listen as well. Your dog may start whining or barking to tell you he’s getting cold. Even a dog who barks when he’s excited will have a different bark to tell you he’s had enough.

Steps you can take:

Shovel a path from the door to the yard. Your dog can have a large area of pristine snow to play in and to take care of his business, but he’ll be glad he has an easy trip to the house when he’s done playing.

Be careful about using salt or ice melt where you walk your dog. These can hurt their paws. There are pet-friendly dog melts you can use on your own property. If you walk your dog on city sidewalks or places where you don’t control the snow/ice removal, consider getting your dog some booties to protect his paws.

If you have a small dog, or one with short legs like a dachshund or a corgi, watch out for snow drifts. Snow drifts are great fun to leap into. But if the dog’s legs are so short they don’t reach the ground, he can’t get any traction and can get stuck.

And remember to dry the dog off when he comes in. Be sure to get all the snow and ice out from between his paw pads and from the webbing between his toes. Wipe off his face. Make sure to get any mats of snow out of his fur. The snow will be easier to brush off before he starts to warm up in the house.

Be an alert dog owner and you and your pup can both enjoy romping through the snow.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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