This time of year can be beautiful but winter walks can be difficult for many dog guardians. When the nights draw in and the weather gets cold on winter walks it’s easy to reminisce about summer strolls!
Dark nights mean reduce visibility. This means you need to take extra safety precautions for you and your dog. High visibility clothing for you, collars and lights are all a great idea. Be more careful around roads, keeping dogs on lead or close enough that you can see them.
The dark of winter walks also means some people find it intimidating to go out on the evenings. If you can’t get out in the day time this can be really limiting. It is not only people who can feel more threatened in the dark. Some dogs find it scary too!
Ice and snow add more complications! It can be hard to stay upright on your own but even worse when you have a dog on the other end of the lead. Practice loose lead walking as much as you can. Don’t feel bad about using a much higher rate of reinforcement for this to encourage your dog to keep at it! It’s hard to ignore all those amazing smells trapped in the snow!
Salting on the pavement is a necessity to limit slips and falls. But most salts contain anti-freeze which is fatal to dogs. Even those which are just salt can cause poisoning to dogs too. Dogs will accidentally ingest this when they lick their paws once they get home. Ensure you avoid areas which have been salted or wash paws off when you get home. Use some tasty treats to distract your dog whilst you do this, and stop if they are uncomfortable. Warm water and letting them stand in a washing up bowl is usually the easiest way!
Frozen walkways are also a risk to those sensitive paws. When very cold dog’s paws can burn on the ice. Listen to your dog and if they seem uncomfortable get them home asap!
Your dog’s view matters too
Some dogs love it this weather! Our Labrador Barnaby loves nothing more than rolling around in the snow. He can be out for a very long time without showing any signs of being chilly. He has a great, thick coat and was bred to live in Canada. This weather suits him perfectly!
Other dogs really do feel the cold. Our Miniature Pinscher Cornelius has an extremely thin coat and really struggles in this weather. We have worked hard to ensure he is comfortable wearing clothes to help him out. He goes out bundled up in layers and can still only cope for about five minutes on a very cold day. And that’s ok!
Listen to your dog and don’t force them to stay out longer than they can cope. If you are going out on walks make sure that they are safe for you and your dog!
When you can’t get out
Don’t feel guilty! Too many guardians feel extreme guilt when they can’t take their dog out on walks. Walks ARE fantastic stimulation (mental and physical) but they are not the be all and end all. As listed above there are many reasons you might not be able to get out this time of year. Many other guardians have all the same problems and you can still have an enjoyable winter with your dog!
Use mental stimulation instead of physical to wear your dog out! Scent work at home (using your dog’s nose) is extremely tiring! We can manage giving our dogs all the stimulation they need through training and play at home if walks are limited. Think about using their food to their benefit through scatter feeds and stuffed Kongs. Play tug games and scent games and do some trick training too! Your dog will have a lovely time and you can all stay safe and warm inside!
Short bouts of play or training are best to not over stimulate your dog. Avoid games like fetch in the house which tend to be too exciting for most dogs too. Chews and rest periods are just as important for managing your dog’s arousal and how well they cope without walks!