The dark nights have arrived!
Wintertime can be lots of fun for all the family but make sure you’re prepared for the hazards that come with it. Read our advice to help keep your dog warm, happy and safe from danger during the cold spell…
How can I keep my dog warm?
When the thermometer dips don’t leave your dog outside unattended – most pet dogs spend a lot of time inside and aren’t used to the extreme cold so could develop hypothermia or frostbite.
Coats and jumpers
Some breeds are not bothered by the cold, having a thick coat that does a great job of protecting them against the elements such as Labradors, huskies and German shepherds. However, particular breeds of dog struggle to keep warm more than others. Short-coated breeds, like greyhounds, Dobermans and Staffordshire bull terriers struggle the most to cope with the cold so make sure your dog has some winter clothes, like a cosy doggy jumper or coat on when they go outside.
If your dog starts lifting up their paws, whining or stopping while out on walks it could well be because their feet are too cold, so it’s a good idea to invest in some doggy winter boots for them to wear. This also makes post exercise cleaning easier as well. You should look for dog boots that have a good sole and Velcro straps.
Should your dog rather not wear boots, you should ensure that their feet are wiped down after the walk to remove any harmful substances picked up on their feet. Remember that salt and grit can get in between your dog’s toes and irritate their footpads.
In the house
If your dog is also feeling the chill at home, you may wish to consider moving their bed to a warmer part of the house, ensuring that your dog has nice thick blankets to keep them cosy and warm during the coldest days. Additionally, it’s worth considering a jumper for your dog indoors for extra warmth if they’re more susceptible to the cold. Of course, there’s always the option for extra cuddles to share the warmth too!
Don’t be a fair-weather friend – take your dog out in all weathers where possible but be careful in slippery conditions. If you’re elderly, don’t put yourself at risk, keep your dog at home and spend time playing games indoors to stop them from getting too bored or frustrated.
Preparing for your walk
Trim the hair around your dog’s feet to help prevent ice-balls – these form between the pads and toes of the feet and are really painful
If you walk on salted pavements wash your dog’s paws after a walk because salt and grit can irritate their footpads. This will also prevent them from licking any salt or grit off their feet.
Stay away from frozen ponds or lakes and keep your dog on a lead near frozen water. If they do run on to it, it’s tempting to go after them but it’s really important that you don’t. Most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are.
If your dog is less active during the winter months, don’t forget to cut back a bit on what you feed them
If your dog has arthritis, it can be worse for them in the cold weather. If they start to show signs of discomfort please contact a vet as soon as possible.
We’ve listed our top tips on staying safe with your dog while out in the dark this winter:
Try to stick to lighted areas ie lighted paths in the park and, if you have to walk on a country road, walk against the traffic, keeping your dog on your right (away from the traffic)
Wear bright/reflective clothing so you can be seen by motorists during the dark evenings. You can also get some great reflective gear for dogs too.
It might be time to think about a good quality flashing collar or harness. This is particularly useful if you’re worried about your dog being off-lead in the dark, helping you to quickly locate your dog in the dark.
Carry a torch with you or wear a head-lamp to leave your hands free to walk your dog
If possible, organise to walk with a friend or a group. Not only will this give you the peace of mind when walking in the dark but if they bring along their dog too, your dog will have a friend to play with.
Only let your dog off the lead in an enclosed area, away from the road. It should be somewhere that is familiar to you and your dog.
You may also want to think about a light-up ball for exercising your dog in the park in the dark evenings. Ensuring that you don’t spend hours searching for that ball in the dark!
What games can I play with my dog inside?
If the weather is too cold or dangerous to go out, or you’re unable to take your dog for a walk for health reasons, you can ensure that your dog feels exercised inside the home.
You can play fetch inside the home with soft toys, ensuring that you do so on carpet to avoid your dog slipping when they’re running after the toy
For those dogs that love a game of tug, this can be a great way of not only exercising them indoors, but teaching them self-control when rules are put in place to make sure that play stays controlled
Keep your dog mentally stimulated by using their scavenger nature to your advantage. Instead of using your dog’s normal food bowl, think about using a Kong or a food puzzle to keep them entertained.