The recent cold weather has been a testing time for us and for our dogs too!
There may have been times when it has just not been possible to enjoy a walk with your dog, but there are alternatives to help to keep them occupied. Of course, dogs like to stretch their legs, but they also need to stretch their minds too. Instead of braving the ice and snow, why not try some indoor games such as hide and seek. Ask a family member to hide in your home, how about in the bath or the airing cupboard?! When in position, ask your furry friend or friends to “FIND”. When success is achieved, reward with a tasty treat.
You could also try a ‘treasure hunt’. Hide a few of their favourite treats or a toy in different locations e.g. under a rug, behind a cushion or tucked underneath a chair. Dogs love to use their nose and they get tired out when they do as they have to concentrate very hard. Remember to make a big fuss when they reach their goal.
Of course, most dogs still very much enjoy their daily walks, no matter how cold and wet it gets! Here are a few tips ……
Wrap up warm
Many dogs can tolerate cold weather, but living in our homes they have become more sensitive to cold as they are accustomed to central heating etc. Your dog may need a little extra bedding at night for example. Wearing a comfortably fitting dog coat can be a great help, especially for those with thinner fur coats, poorly joints or those that are reaching old age. Do carefully measure your dog when choosing a coat. A coat should cover the whole of the length of the back and should cover the chest and underneath. Make sure the fit is not too loose or too tight. In addition, remember to choose a lighter colour or one with a fluorescent strip if you tend to walk when there is little light. Always remember to introduce the coat to your dog gradually. Just putting it on and going for a walk can actually cause a dog some stress. Place it carefully onto your dog using lots of treats, for example to encourage your dog to put its head through the coat. Keep feeding lots of nice treats so your dog starts to make positive associations with wearing the coat. Try feeding your dog with the coat on and then just take it straight off again. At first, just put it on for a few minutes and keep extending the time until your dog seems comfortable wearing it.
Frozen lakes and ponds can pose a real danger to dogs. If your dog is likely to venture out onto a frozen stretch or water, make sure to lead walk instead. If your dog does unfortunately get stuck in or under ice, please do not rush in, raise the alarm and seek assistance ASAP. In such cases, always take your dog for a thorough vet check in case of any wounds or signs of hypothermia.
Vets regularly have to deal with dogs that have consumed anti-freeze. This is a very poisonous substance for dogs. There are 3 places where your dog is more likely to be exposed to anti-freeze
- Picking up an empty bottle left within reach in a garage or that has been discarded in a car park
- Drinking from puddles containing anti-freeze in public carparks (it tastes very sweet and is unfortunately very appealing to dogs).
- Drinking from outdoor water features, where owners have added anti-freeze in the winter months
It is essential to take extra care of paws in the winter. They can be given extra protection by using a paw wax for example. This can prevent them cracking and becoming very sore. Try also cutting back the fur around the paw pads to avoid debris being trapped, especially balls of snow that can be very painful. If you are not experienced in trimming paw fur, ask a groomer to help you.
Always wipe paws after a muddy walk. This is important generally, but particularly as mud has been associated with some very serious canine conditions – https://www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/
Remember also that ice and snow can cause serious burning to dog paws. Salt and grit used to defrost the snow and ice is particularly hazardous. Do take extra care!
If your dog does get muddy and need a bath, take a little extra time to fully dry the fur and make sure your dog is not resting with a damp coat
Hydro / Waterproof collars!
Finally, the winter can still bring lots of fun and many dogs enjoy getting wet and muddy! Constant exposure to damp conditions causes many collars to fade, rot and soon start to look a little shabby. This is certainly NOT the case with our range of handmade hydro collars. Take a look at our range on the website and treat your dog! They are available in a great choice of colours and styles.
Article produced by Joanne Owen BA Hons. ADip CBM
Registered Accredited Animal Behaviourist (Animal Behaviour & Training Council)
Registered Animal Training Instructor (Animal Behaviour & Training Council)
Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (01216)
This article remains © Joanne Owen 2019