Winter is a truly magical time of year, bringing with it crisp, sunny mornings, flurries of snow, festive fun and lots of family time. However, the cold weather can also make it much trickier to get outdoors to exercise with your dog.
Of course, exercise is great for both you and your dog – and January might see more people keen to pull on the walking boots and get out to shed the holiday weight. However its also really important to decipher when wintery weather conditions may end up having an adverse affect for your dog’s health, and frankly, their overall enjoyment of the walk.
YuMOVE resident vet Dr Jayne Laycock has shared five questions you should ask yourself before heading out on a snowy walk, and when it might be best to stay at home with some mental enrichment and indoor games.
1. Is it icy outside?
Water will freeze at zero degrees or less, so if its been snowing or raining, any surface water can turn to ice on very cold days. Similarly, ponds, streams and lakes can also freeze over in these conditions. The last thing you want to do is take a tumble on the ice, and it’s exactly the same for your pooch.
If there is a risk you could both slip on the ice, it might be best to try and get some exercise at home instead. Particularly if your dog is a little older, frail or has stiff joints, you want to avoid any falls that might aggravate their symptoms or cause new issues.
2. Is there grit or salt on the floor outside?
Grit and salt help to keep pavements and roads clear of ice and snow during winter, however both can be extremely harmful to your dog. For a start, grit contains chemicals that, with prolonged contact with your dog’s paws, can cause nasty burns. It can also get caught up between their paws, which can cause further discomfort.
It’s generally best to avoid gritted paths and roads where possible, however if you do happened to stumble across it, be secure to wipe your pooch’s paws as soon as possible and check between their claws to make sure nothing is stuck there.
3. Do you both have a proper coat?
You wouldn’t go for a walk on a wintery day without a big coat on to keep you warm, yet many people assume that just because their dog has fur that it’ll automatically be warm enough on walks.
If you own a breed such as a Husky or an Alsatian, then their fur probably is likely to be thick enough to keep them toasty on their travels. However, if you own a dog with shorter, coarser fur, like Staffies, its likely they’ll need an extra layer, so make sure you have an appropriately sized doggy jacket to pop them in before you set off. We love the Doodlebone puffer coats and HOTTERdog fleeces for colder walks, but Phoebe does occasionally twin with me in this River Island number.
4. What’s the visibility like and can others see you?
With winter comes shorter days and longer evenings, meaning visibility is often reduced. It’s really important you can see your dog at all times whilst out and about, so you might want to think about attaching a small light to their collar or simply getting them a high visibility collar or jacket so you can keep track of them more easily. This also helps other vehicles and pedestrians to see them too. Phoebe and Frank’s Doodlebone puffers have reflective strips – but we’ve also recently bought flashing tags for their leashes, too.
5. Is it too cold for you?
Before you head out for your walk, step outside yourself. Would you go for a walk if you didn’t have to walk the dog? If you decide it’s genuinely too cold for you to take a stroll, then it’s probably too cold for your dog as well.
Particularly if they suffer from stiff joints or perhaps arthritis, very cold weather can really accentuate symptoms and sometimes even lead to hypothermia, so a walk may end up causing more harm than good. So, use your judgement and act accordingly and if you feel it is too cold to take your dog out then you can always introduce more varied exercise and play at home to keep your dog moving.