Powers: Cold weather tips for your pups
All About Pets
It’s a bit chilly out there — but the pups still want to walk. Should they wear boots and coats? Lots of things to consider.
Basically, our dogs adjust to the changing temperatures. I guess we do also, but we tend to put on more layers. I watch the deer wandering through the property across the road during a cold rain, and they do not seem to even notice the weather. And then I watch the birds, mostly the ravens, who fly from tree to tree while it is pouring rain and cold. They do not seem to be the least bit bothered.
Watching the very little dogs walk with their dedicated people (who are all bundled up) on super cold or wet mornings, these guys are walking ahead — exploring the amazing smells before them, not bothered one bit by the weather.
Many people put coats on their pups. Are they necessary? The key is consistency. If you usually put a coat on your dog, he will be cold if you forget it on a cold day. My short-haired girl loves to venture out when it is cold — but she does not like to be burdened with the coat, even though it looks very cute on her.
Besides the coat, some dog walkers also provide boots. It is easy to think that if it is freezing cold outside, our dogs need foot protection. We would not want to be barefoot out there. But we have to remember that our pups are always walking on that ground, so their paws are pretty tough. The thing to keep in mind, whether it is super cold or super hot, is that our dogs will let us know if they are uncomfortable. We can easily tell if their feet are cold or if they have a sticker imbedded between the pads of their feet. Naturally, we want to be observant.
One important thing to consider if you must walk where salt and other products have been put on the roads and sidewalks. These products can be very irritating to the feet and, most worrisome, if the dog licks his feet, he will ingest some of it, and it can be toxic. Wiping the feet after such a walk is important and watch for licking.
Getting back to the dog’s natural coat, obviously they are not all the same. Most dogs with longer coats have an undercoat, and together these act as insulation. This double layer is helpful in the hot days of summer as well as the cold days of winter, which is a good reason to keep the coat brushed and mat-free all year around. Close clipping of a heavier-coated dog can remove this important year-round insulation. In the hot summer, it can expose him to sunburn. Obviously, in the winter, it can lead to needing a coat.
The big concern — please do not leave your dog outside on these cold days. They will certainly tell you when they want to go out, and also, when they are ready to come in. Ideally, every dog has a fenced yard — and access to a doghouse or covered deck — because most dogs like spending time outside, keeping watch. But if they must spend extended time outside, their doghouse should be facing the sun in the winter, have dry bedding and be elevated so they are not exposed to the cold ground.
No dog or cat should be left outside all night. If you see an animal suffering outside in the cold, please call Animal Control.
In summary, our dogs are always eager to get out for some fresh air and exercise in most any weather. And naturally, they want us out there with them. Our dogs are experts at keeping us moving — if only we will listen to them!
Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.