We recommend walking your dog in daylight whenever you can because it’s generally a safer option. But as the days get shorter, this may not always be possible. Whether you’re taking the dog out extra early, or planning a walk after work, staying visible is key to the safety of you and your dog. Make sure drivers can see you both by wearing reflective jackets – one for you, and one for your furry friend. There are some brilliant flashing LED collars available too, which will draw extra attention to your dog.
It’s also important that you can see the way ahead and look out for any hazards. Many owners wear head torches or belt lights, to light up the path. It makes it so much easier to keep an eye on what your pooch is up to, and it’s even more useful when you’re scooping up poop!
Keep them safe, keep them close
If you’re walking your dog in snowy or icy conditions, we suggest you keep them on the leash. Dogs can easily lose their way in the snow because everything looks the same. Even if they’re somewhere familiar, colder environments have fewer smells than warmer ones, making it harder for a dog’s sensitive nose to pick out familiar scents. Being on the lead will also prevent your dog from running over finely frozen water too. This is a big hazard when the temperatures drop dramatically.
Braving the cold
It’s worth remembering that temperatures are generally colder first thing in the morning and late at night. If you don’t want to brave the harshest conditions, this is another reason to try and walk during daylight whenever possible.
No matter when you get out, puppies and seniors really benefit from an extra layer in the winter. They can be a little more sensitive to extreme weather conditions because they sometimes have difficulty regulating their body temperature. And if your dog doesn’t have a thick, fluffy coat, it’s extra important to wrap them up warmly.
There are loads of coats available online for dogs of all shapes and sizes: waterproof ones, padded ones, fleecy ones… Or perhaps a fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark coat for extra visibility?
Taking care of their paws
It’s important to take care of your dog’s paws throughout the year. And if your dog has long hair between their toes, they may need your help to keep them clean after walks.
When we have icy weather and the pavements are treated with salt, this can easily get stuck in your pooch’s paws. Try trimming the hairs so they’re even with the foot pads and easier to keep grit-free.
Even if your dog doesn’t have long hairs on their feet, we recommend rinsing all paws with some warm water when you return from a wintery walk. There are antibacterial sprays especially designed for dogs, and a quick squirt when you’re cleaning them off will help prevent bacteria growing.
Because the cold can cause small cracks in the pads, we also recommend that you apply some pet-friendly moisturiser after rinsing. But if paw soreness or stubborn dirt becomes a recurring problem, you could invest in some special boots for your dog.
Safety in the snow
Many dogs love playing in the snow, but there are a few things to remember when you’re walking with your pup in these conditions. Although it’s no big deal if your dog eats some snow, it’s a good idea to discourage it. Gobbling too much white stuff can cause diarrhoea and lower your dog’s body temperature.
Another big concern with snow and ice is the use of salt and antifreeze. We’ve already discovered that salt isn’t good for your dog’s paws but eating it can cause bigger problems; like dehydration, vomiting, or - in severe cases - blood flow problems. Antifreeze is even more of a concern. If a small dog eats a teaspoon of antifreeze, it can cause kidney failure or liver problems. It’s a scary thought and an extra something to be wary of when the temperatures drop.
Now you’ve got all the tips and tools you need to brave the colder months safely. All that’s left to do is relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year with your pooch!