Preparing Your Dog For Winter
Winter can be the best time of the year, or the worst time of the year, depending on your dog. You could have a pup who, much like Archer or Topher, loves playing in the snow and doesn’t mind the cold weather. However, no matter your dog’s feelings about the weather, even breeds bred for colder climates need to be prepared for winter. So, what should you do to help prepare your dog for the coming winter?
Keeping Your Outdoor Dog Warm This Winter
If your dog lives mainly outdoors, or spends a good part of their day outdoors, you must prepare proper shelter for them. If you have an indoor dog, or your dog doesn’t go outside unsupervised, then you don’t necessarily need to consider proper shelter outdoors. The more time your dog spends outside will determine the types of preparation you need.
Every outdoor dog should have a house that is made of wood or heavy plastic. Their shelter should have ventilation, but not be drafty, and the entrance to the house be able to protect your dog from drafts. For example, a doorway in the middle of the house without any flap will allow winds and rain to blow in. Still, wind chill makes days colder than actual temperature readings. Be attentive to your dog’s body temperature, and consider bringing them inside on the colder nights.
You can also buy outdoor heated beds that you can put on a timer. These beds may seem expensive at the start, but if you compare the price of a heated bed to how much you would spend per winter in straw or other beddings, the investment may be worth it. If you use straw, blankets, or other bedding, ensure that it is kept dry and clean. Check your dog’s bedding morning and evening: wet bedding will hold no heat and can freeze if left untended.
For indoor dogs, winter prep is a little less intensive. Make sure your pet has bedding they can lie down on. Tiles and uncarpeted areas may become extremely cold, so make sure to place blankets and pads on floors in these areas if that’s where your dog enjoys resting.
Staying Warm On Winter Walks
When deciding whether to take that daily walk with your dog, always remember that in most cases, if it’s too cold outside for you, it’s too cold for your pup. Make your walks only as long as your dog is comfortable, and monitor them closely for signs they’re becoming too cold. Dogs don’t like to show they’re in any sort of distress, so the judgement call is up to you.
If your dog needs a coat, try to stay away from the cutesy ones. The most important function of your dog’s coat is keeping them warm, not how fashionable it is. Make sure the coat allows your dog the freedom of movement they’ll need when they’re outside. Coats that restrict movement can build stress and make wearing the coat unpleasant.
If you choose to use booties on your dog, again, think function and less fashion. For safety, do not leave dog coats or booties on your dog unless you are going to be closely monitoring their play. A coat can snag and a dog can become injured during an attempt to get loose.
Winter Hazards To Watch Out For
Winter brings its own set of hazards to watch out for, whether you’re out and about with your dog or not. Outdoors, frostbite can be a threat if you’re staying outside for longer periods. To prevent frostbite on your dog’s ears, tail and feet, don’t leave them outdoors for too long.
Antifreeze, which often collects on driveways and roadways, is another highly poisonous hazard. It smells and tastes good to your dog, but it can be lethal. Rock salt, used to melt ice on sidewalks, may also irritate their footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your dog’s feet thoroughly after a walk. Be extra careful when walking or playing with your dog near frozen lakes, rivers or ponds. Your dog could slip or jump in and get seriously injured.
Indoors, be very careful of supplemental heat sources. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your dog. Make sure all fireplaces have screens, and keep portable heaters out of reach.
Keeping Your Pup Happy And Clean
Whether your dog is an indoor or outdoor animal, always provide plenty of fresh water. Your dog is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer. Snow is not a satisfactory substitute for water. Like people, dogs are more susceptible to illness in the winter. Take your dog to a veterinarian if you see any suspicious symptoms.
Groom your dog regularly. Your dog needs a well-groomed coat to keep properly insulated. Long-haired dogs should have excess hair around the toes and foot pads trimmed to ease snow removal and cleaning. If you do the trimming yourself, take care not to cut the pads or other delicate area of the foot.
Towel or blow-dry your dog if they gets wet from rain or snow. It is important to dry and clean their paws, too. This helps avoid tiny cuts and cracked pads. A little petroleum jelly may soften the pads and prevent further cracking.