Walking your dog in the winter brings a range of different challenges for dog walkers. The weather brings all sorts of hazards that you need to be aware of. Dog walkers brave the winter cold every day. Winter dog walks don’t have to be traumatic, with the right equipment and knowledge, they can be wonderful. Getting outdoors in the winter is excellent for your health, as long as you wrap up warm and stay safe.
This year, if the weatherman is correct, winter is going to hit us hard. Winter 2015 is predicted to be one of the coldest in years. Whether this winter lives up to expectations or not, you need to be prepared to face the cold. You also need to make sure your dog is protected and stays out of harm’s way. This is our complete guide to winter dog walks, read on to discover everything you need to know about walking your dog in the winter.
Wrapping up warm
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have plenty of layers on. It’s worth investing in items of clothing that will get you through winter dog walks. Decent water and a windproof raincoat is a must, as this will help to protect you from the elements. Remember to get a jacket that has a hood on it for when the weather gets really bad.
You will also need several thick jumpers for the coldest days. You might want to consider getting some waterproof trousers too, or you’ll end up with wet, damp legs after every walk in the rain. A cost woolly hat, scarf, and gloves are also things all dog walkers need for the winter.
Winter coats & jumpers for dogs
It’s not just you that needs to be wrapped up warm. Your dog might need a jumper or a coat on, particularly cold or wet days. Even if your dog doesn’t need a coat, it can help to prevent them from getting too wet or muddy on dog walks. Some short-haired breeds really suffer from the cold, and will definitely need a jumper or coat to prevent them from getting too cold.
Snow and ice
The snow and ice is something that dog walkers have to contend with in the winter. Don’t go outside if the weather gets really severe and you feel it might be hazardous walking in the snow and ice. See below for other ways to exercise your dog when the weather is really bad. Bad weather is not an excuse to fail to provide your dog with exercise.
Lots of dog walkers end up slipping over on the ice and causing themselves nasty injuries. If you do go out, make sure you wear shoes that have plenty of grips. Avoid walking through really thick snow with your dog, as you cannot see what is underneath the snow that may injure your dog’s feet. Try and walk on routes that have been cleared rather than going through fresh snow.
Watch out for de-icer and antifreeze in the winter, as this can poison dogs. People use them on their cars and to get rid of ice, but if your dog licks these substances they could be ins serious danger. Commercial antifreeze has a sweet flavour that attracts dogs. Don’t let your dog off the lead in areas where there may be antifreeze a wash their paws when you get home so they don’t lick them.
Salt and grit are another winter hazard to watch out for. They can get stuck in between your dog’s paws and cause cuts, abrasions, and irritations. It’s also important to prevent your dog from trying to eat or lick the salt. On icy and snowy days salt can be scattered everywhere so you may want to rethink where you walk your dog.
Drying off your dog after walks
It’s extremely important to make sure you dry your dog off properly after winter dog walks. If they get wet in the rain or from jumping in wet muddy puddles then they will need to be dried off properly at home. Sometimes a towel dry is not enough if your dog’s coat is even a little bit damp on a cold winter day they can easily catch the chills. Use a special dog-friendly dryer and make sure your dog is completely dry.
Frozen lakes and rivers
Watch out for lakes and rivers that have frozen over in the winter. Don’t let your dog off the lead near any frozen water, they could run onto it and if the ice cracks, end up falling into the freezing water. Check your dog walking routes to ensure there won’t be any frozen water along the way.
Extreme weather conditions
In the winter, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast regularly. This will help you prepare for adverse weather conditions, and also know when it’s not safe to go out. Keep an eye out for weather warnings and plan your dog walks in advance. It’s just not worth taking the risk by going on a walk when it could put you or your dog in danger.
Winter brings shorter days and darker evenings. The sun goes down earlier, which means you have fewer daylight hours to walk your dog. Avoid walking your dog in the dark unless you have a high vis jacket for both you and your dog. You can also get flashing and reflective collars for dogs.
All dog walkers should have decent walking shoes. You need shoes that will keep your feet warm and dry, as well as having a good grip. It’s worth investing in a quality pair of shoes to get you through the winter and help you brave the muddiest of dog walks.
Other things to consider for winter dog walks:
- Protect your car from mud
- Protect your carpets/flooring – runners and dog mats can help to protect your carpet when dogs get back from muddy dog walks.
- Protecting your dog’s feet – get your dog some booties for winter dog walks to protect their paws.
- You might want to find alternative ways to exercise your dog when the weather is severe. For example, dog treadmills, playing with toys, indoor agility, and hydrotherapy.