It’s officially that time of year when fall really sets in and winter sometimes feels like it’s much closer than the calendar indicates. The sun sets a little earlier, and daylight becomes limited. Colder temperatures sometimes make going outside less appealing. While the seasons may be changing, dogs still need their regular walking routines!
You know to bundle yourself up when the weather gets chilly, but do you know how to best care for dogs during the colder months of the year? There are a few elements the upcoming months may present that you should be aware of when out walking dogs:
Dogs get cold, too!
Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Huskies, and other breeds with thick, winter-proof coats are lucky when it comes to braving the elements. Others, however, are not so winter-ready and just like us, require some extra, tender care and attention (and layers, of course). Whippets, Pitbulls, Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and other short-haired dogs are not necessarily built to endure the cold, rain, wind, sleet, or snow. Just like us, dogs can become uncomfortable or at risk of frostbite and hypothermia when exposed to colder weather. Some dogs will shiver or refuse to walk if they’re too cold. Walks should be fun, not frigid!
While dog clothing may seem silly, sometimes it’s essential. Book a walk on a cool, wintery day? Make sure you read the walk details to see whether the owner mentions any outerwear they want you to put on their dog while outside. If they don’t mention anything, you’re always welcome to ask! Perhaps they left it out, or perhaps they don’t use a jacket for their dog – regardless, they’ll be glad you asked and are making sure their dog is comfortable and in good hands!
It’s easy to forget that dogs have delicate paws. They’re walking barefoot year-round, after all! Despite how tough paws can be, frozen surfaces and colder weather still pose danger. If you live in an area where the roads are salted or covered with de-icing chemicals, it’s good practice to make sure dogs aren’t eating the snow or licking their paws after their walk. Both the salt and chemicals can be harmful to a dog’s paws, and it’s important they aren’t consuming it and that their paws are cleaned after exposure.
That being said, ask your clients if they have a hand towel to wipe the dog’s paws off with warm water when you return from snowy walks. Often times, little balls of ice can build up between a dog’s foot pads while walking in the snow, as well. Check their toes to make sure any ice is removed. Some dogs might have winter booties to wear! Check with your clients to see if they use these on their dog.
If the dog you’re walking starts to shiver or shows signs of being uncomfortable, contact the owner and let them know what’s going on. Trust your judgment if you think the dog is truly unhappy being out in the cold!
Wearing reflective clothing while walking in the dark is always a good idea. Make sure you’re visible to cars and stay aware of where you are in relation to the road.
Finally, you know that famous scene from “A Christmas Story” where Flick licks the frozen flagpole? It’s best to avoid any metal surfaces when walking in the winter. We don’t want any frozen paws or tongues!