Winter Dog Care
BY KRISTEN SEYMOUR
Even the most conscientious dog owners make the occasional mistake. And hey, that’s no reason to beat yourself up! But it is a good incentive to make sure you’re well aware of any seasonal mistakes you could be making when it comes to your dog’s care. From not wiping your pooch’s feet after a walk to letting her play close to open flames, we’ve rounded up seven common mistakes that dog owners make in the winter — and tips on how you can avoid making them yourself.
1. Assuming your dog doesn’t mind the cold weather.
Is it so cold out that you’re freezing even in your winter weather gear? Chances are, it’s a little too cold for your dog to spend much time outside, too. True, there are certain dog breeds that can handle the cold weather rather well, but any dog — no matter how furry — can suffer from hypothermia or frostbite when the temperature drops.
It’s our recommendation that you bring your dog indoors in these conditions, but if for any reason this just isn’t possible, make sure your outdoor dog has access to dry, well-insulated shelter that’s out of the wind, fresh water (that isn’t iced over!) and, ideally, warmth, perhaps in the form of blankets or a pet-safe heater.
2. Not providing your dog with alternate forms of exercise when she can’t play outside.
If your pup is used to getting long walks and plenty of playtime outdoors, don’t make the mistake of expecting her to happily curl up on the couch until the snow thaws. Dogs get bored, too! She needs exercise and stimulation, and happily, there are plenty of ways for you to help her get it without needing to set foot outdoors. You can play fetch, create an indoor agility course and more.
3. Treating your snowy walk just like a warm weather walk.
For obvious (potty-related) reasons, your dog will still need to get outside at least occasionally, and hopefully, you’ll be able to join her for a walk here and there. But before you head out into that winter wonderland with your furry friend, make sure you are both properly outfitted and prepared. Some dogs can really benefit from wearing a sweater, coat or booties — particularly small dogs with short legs or pups with thin, short coats.
There are other safety precautions you need to heed, too, both for your own well-being and your dog’s. Here are eight tips you should know for walking your dog in cold weather.
4. Not checking and cleaning your dog’s feet when she comes in from outdoors.
This is such a simple thing to do, but it’s so commonly missed. Every time your dog comes in from the cold, it’s really important that you check her feet and wipe them clean. Look at all four paws and pay particular attention to the areas between her toes. Snow and ice can get stuck there, but it’s not just the cold that’s a potential hazard — that ice and snow can contain chemicals (snow salt, for example) that can hurt her skin or be harmful if she ingests them when she licks her paws.
5. Allowing your dog to run off-leash near lakes and ponds without checking for ice thickness.
Whether you live near a body of water or are on a dog-friendly winter vacation in an area where there’s a lake or a pond, you should have ice safety at the top of your mind. If you don’t know what the ice/water situation is, keep your dog on a leash — better safe than sorry. And if the worst happens and your dog falls through the ice, call 911 immediately — rescuers are trained in how to help your dog, and if you follow him out, you’re likely to fall in after him.
6. Not cleaning up toxins like spilled antifreeze or deicers.
We get it. You’re busy and just don’t have time to clean up every tiny spill in the garage, and you can’t really be expected to shovel every bit of icky gray slush out of the way, right? Well, you might want to make time for these chores, because even a small amount of antifreeze (which can be attractive to pets because of its sweet flavor) can be lethal to your dog. And you know how we mentioned the dangers of snow and ice remaining on your dog’s paws? It can also be dangerous if they eat that dirty snow out in your driveway. Cleaning up any spills and supervising your dog when she’s outdoors can help keep her safe and healthy.
7. Leaving candles burning and allowing your dog access to your fireplace.
Outdoor hazards aren’t the only dangers your dog faces this time of year. Many pet owners like to create a feeling of coziness with burning candles, and it’s pretty much expected that those who have a fireplace will light them up when the snow falls. And those aren’t problematic actions on their own, but it is important that, whenever you have an open flame, you also have an eye on your dog. Keep his bed far enough away from the fireplace to avoid any flying embers and move play to a different area of the house, as both the fire and the fireplace tools can be dangerous for roughhousing dogs. Use candles sparingly, and when lit, always keep them high enough that a wagging tail won’t knock one over or pass through the flame.