Winter has officially arrived and, for many parts of the world, the season is accompanied with colder temperatures, darker days, snow and ice. Some dogs love zooming through the snow and walking in cooler temps, while others would prefer to never leave the house until the first signs of spring. Wherever your pup lands on the spectrum, there are certain considerations that must be taken into account when caring for your dog through the next few months. Read on for my winter dog tips!
We often see dogs gain a little extra weight during the winter months, and this is because people and animals naturally retreat during the often frigid temperatures of winter as a result of shorter days, less adventure time under the sun, and simply protecting ourselves from the harsh elements of the season. For this reason, chances are high that you and your dog are less active too.
As your dog consistently burns less calories, diet may need to be considered and modified to reflect these changes. If your dog hikes 14’ers every weekend during the summer months but prefers Netflix and naps December through March, they won’t need the same amount of food at each meal during their “off season”, so evaluating your dog’s diet is high on the list of winter dog tips
You can also refer to our step-by-step article to calculate how much food your dog needs.
If your dog loves winter, you may not need to adjust much of their favorite outdoor activities at all! Depending on the health and interests of both you and your pup, as well as the climate you live in, it may be perfectly reasonable to continue on with regular walks, runs, hikes or other outdoor activities with your pup.
If this is not the case for you and your dog, and the reality is that you will be slowing down for the future months ahead, it’s important to consider how you will accommodate these adjustments. You can try incorporating some of the winter dog tips for keeping active below!
Depending on your dog’s needs, a few winter activity adjustments may include:
- Incorporate food puzzles. Mental stimulation can be just as important as physical stimulation. Helping your dog to engage in problem solving can alleviate boredom and other mental health conditions. Food puzzles such as this one are a great and easy way to incorporate mental stimulation into meal or snack time!
- Nose work. If you’re not a trainer or dog training enthusiast, the idea of introducing your dog to nose work may feel intimidating. Give it a try! It’s so easy, and many dogs love this activity!
- Continue your walk! Even if your walks are shorter, at different times of the day, or cut in number, try your hardest to continue walking with your dog! Dogs thrive on schedules and consistency. We can’t (and won’t) always get it right, but we can try!
Depending on your pup’s size, mobility status, and the climate in which you live in, many winter days are quite manageable. This is particularly true for the healthy and middle-sized dog. A lot of “bad weather” can be remedied simply with the right equipment and gear.
Here are a few winter dog tips for supporting your dog using apparel:
- Jacket. If your dog is small, thin coated, or just sensitive to the cold, a jacket is going to be the number one game-changer for your dog. There are so many options on the market: vests, down, fleece lined, the list goes on. Ruffwear is just one of the many reputable brands with an excellent line of quality dog jackets available.
- Booties. Dog boots can be important in icy or cold temps. Not only do they protect your pup’s paws from the elements, they also add traction on slippery surfaces and prevent your dog’s paw from having direct contact with concerning products like deicers. Desensitizing your dog to booties may take time; you may need to start by placing one boot on a paw for just a few minutes while inside and then rewarding with a treat. Repeat this over time (days or weeks) until all boots are on and your pup is comfortable. Ruffwear also makes a great line of boots.
- Paw Wax. When boots aren’t totally necessary, or simply impossible, a quality paw wax can be helpful in protecting your dog’s paw from the elements and keeping ice or snow from sticking between their pads. My favorite, by far, is Musher’s Wax.
Beyond apparel, it’s also important to take a few proactive steps to ensure the winter-proofing products and house items you and your community are using are safe for your dog.
Winter dog tips for safety include:
- Antifreeze. While propylene glycol-based antifreeze will be more pricey, it is far less toxic than standard antifreeze made with ethylene glycol. Here is an example of a propylene glycol product.
- Deicer/Ice Melt. Deicing products used on the ground during winter months can be irritating, or worse, for your pup’s pads. If you live in a community, ask that the groundskeeper only use animal-friendly deicer. Most are very accommodating to this request, and educating others is essential in keeping our dogs safe. If you are de-icing your own property, consider a pet-friendly product such as this one.
- Plants. This may sound like a bit of an odd one, but since poinsettias, lilies and mistletoe are all regularly sold and celebrated during the holiday/winter season, you should know that they are toxic to dogs and cats. If you’re concerned that your dog has ingested a toxic plant (or anything toxic!), reach out to the Pet Poison Helpline ASAP! For a marginal fee, they will walk you through everything you need to know about your dog’s possible toxicity, as well as outline next steps. They are an incredible resource for all pet parents, no matter the season!
Senior Dog Support
Senior dogs are a pet demographic that typically have a harder time during the cold and winter months. There are a few reasons for this!
Your senior pup may struggle through the winter months because:
- Mobility. Navigating winter terrain, such as ice or snow, is more difficult for older dogs who may be struggling with arthritis, stiffness and muscle weakness.
- Body temperature. It is more difficult for senior animals to regulate their body temperature due to poor blood circulation, and so senior dogs will likely get colder faster on frigid winter days.
- Discomfort. The cold temperatures or reduced movement causes increased stiffness or sore joints to senior dogs. This can make everyday functioning harder and more uncomfortable.
There are many winter dog tips you can use to specifically support your senior dog through winter.
A few supportive steps you can take for your senior include:
- Outdoor apparel. The proper apparel (which was mentioned in this article above), specifically jackets and booties, will be extra critical for senior dogs.
- Heated bed and sweaters. Consider investing in a thin sweater that your pup can wear inside as well. Heated beds are an excellent option for keeping dogs snug and warm during their golden years, and can help alleviate arthritis related discomfort.
- Bodywork. Since senior dogs often struggle with body pain, and especially during senior months, consider adding bodywork such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic into your pup’s regular wellness routine.
Winter is important! It helps us remember to slow down and go inward, and yet it may prove to be challenging for both you and your dog. Small adjustments to everyday routines can help soften some of the harsh aspects of this season while allowing your pup to stay safer and more comfortable. Don’t forget to enjoy some of the fun aspects of this season while you incorporate some of the winter dog tips above!