Depending on where in the world you and your dog live, wintertime could mean anything from cool breezes and sweaters to blizzards and snowshoes. And while you may think that this weather is just chilly and inconvenient, depending on your dog’s breed, temperament, and personality, it could require serious changes for them. Between going for walks on icy or snowy paths, getting exercise in the snow, or even grooming and maintenance, the winter months can present some new challenges that many might be unprepared for. So here at Chewnplay, we’ve assembled a brief overview of wintertime tips and essentials that will keep both you and your dog happy!
How Snow & Ice Affect Your Dog’s Paws
When we humans go outside, especially during the winter, we take care to protect our feet with socks and shoes; if the terrain is particularly arduous, we even make sure to wear special footwear, such as boots, because we know the amount of pain and discomfort we might have to deal with if we fail to properly protect ourselves. Unfortunately, many people don’t consider this when it comes to their dog’s feet. Although dogs certainly have a higher degree of natural protection to unfriendly terrain, we still have to consider their comfort and wellbeing.
During the winter, ice and snow coat the paths and trails that we walk along and can irritate a dog’s feet, pads, and skin quite significantly. Some issues among many are fur freezing to the surface and being pulled out with each step, long periods of standing still on ice or in snow, and the buildup of snow or ice between pads. Furthermore, the lower temperatures can cause discomfort or even dangers for certain dog breeds, especially smaller breeds. If your dog is a small breed, or is particularly young or old, cold weather can pose a serious risk to their health and comfort. Thankfully, there are solutions to these weather-based concerns that can keep you and your dog walking in all weather conditions.
Keep Your Dog Warm & Safe in the Cold
Many people believe that a dog’s fur is ample protection from the cold, and in some cases, they might be right. Cold-weather dog breeds, such as the Siberian Husky, Saint Bernard, and Alaskan Malamute, tend to do well in reasonably cold weather. However, other breeds, especially those with thinner coats and shorter hair, are much less protected. Because of this, a dog jacket, coat, or sweater may be a good choice for your dog. In addition to looking cute, these pieces of dog apparel can keep them safe and comfortable in the freezing cold and high wind.
Check out our collection of dog coats, jackets, and apparel, available here
Another way to protect your dog from the cold weather is to get him shoes. While these may require an adjustment period for him to get used to, and it may even require a great deal of effort on your part to train him to tolerate them, these can be a great addition to your dog’s winter supplies. A good strategy for training him to abide shoes is to introduce him to them one paw at a time. Have him lay down, and then put one shoe on him. Once it’s on, give him a treat as a reward and praise him for it. Then, take the shoe off and repeat with each of the other feet. Repeat until he begins to tolerate the shoes well, and then begin introducing the idea of wearing them all at the same time. Continue to reward and praise him for good behavior. Once he can comfortably wear all of them, begin walking him around with them on. Common behaviors are to swipe at the paw, try and remove the shoe with their mouth, or to lift legs up awkwardly. As with training your dog to do anything, persistence, patience, and rewards are key.
In addition to comfort and safety from ice and snow, shoes have the added benefit in the winter of protecting your dog’s feet from chemicals. In the winter, especially in cities and near roads, the streets and sidewalks become cluttered with chemicals and rock salt to combat the frost. These things can cause great discomfort for your dog should he step on or in any of them, and some of them can even be hazardous to his health. Dog shoes help to create a barrier from this and keep him safe and comfortable.
Finally, dog shoes are also good investments for other seasons, making them useful year-round. Depending on where you live, even in the summer months, your dog may benefit from wearing shoes. If you frequently walk somewhere with a lot of easily heated blacktop, asphalt, or rocky and brambly surfaces, your dog may be more comfortable wearing shoes. If you’ve ever seen a dog lifting a leg on hot blacktop, or refusing to walk on it altogether and preferring the grass instead, this may be why. A good pair of dog shoes can solve all these problems.
If you’re looking for some boots for your dog, we have some available here
Winter Brushing & Cleaning for Your Dog
By the very nature of these protective items, they will get dirty and need cleaning. Be sure that you’re not putting soiled shoes or jackets on your dog, thereby defeating the whole purpose. Be sure that you inspect your dog’s shoes and jacket after each wearing and clean them if necessary. Most should come with cleaning instructions for this very reason.
In addition to cleaning their walking equipment and winter gear, be sure to clean your dog as well. If there’s snowfall, be sure to towel your dog off so it doesn’t melt and make his fur wet. This will not only protect your house from the damages, and smells, of a wet dog, but it will also help protect him from the dirt and bacteria that can be housed within wet fur. In addition, don’t forget to continue bathing your dog regularly. Some people tend to believe that the winter months require less bathing, because there is less obvious dirt and grime to build up, or because the dryness protects the dog from it. This is simply not true, and your dog should continue to receive his baths. And finally, don’t forget to brush your dog regularly. Some people believe they should reduce or even stop brushing their dog altogether in the winter. This is a mistake, as your dog still has the same needs as the rest of the year when it comes to his coat. In fact, some may argue your dog needs more brushing in the winter, as it helps to regulate his coat and allows him to best adapt to the colder weather. And if that’s not enough reason, remember that most dogs love being brushed. Why stop just because it’s a little chilly?
Another good habit to establish is paw-wiping after every walk. Imagine how cold your hands get if you touch snow directly. The same is true for your dog’s sensitive paw pads. Worse still, snow, ice, or rock salt can get stuck in the spaces between the pads, can freeze to the fur itself, or can even get wedged between claws. Using a safe wipe or towel to clear this space can help keep your dog happy and comfortable, and can help to stave off potential drying and chapping of the skin here. Some people like to use dog-friendly lotions or creams to help keep their dog’s paws clean and hydrated in the winter months.
In addition to this, consider applying paw wax for your dog's dried or sensitive paw pads. This will help to both create a barrier between his paws and the cold, as well as moisturize pads that are already getting dry.
We like Pawz Max Wax for Dogs, available here
As with anything, be sure to use according to the instructions, and always ask your veterinarian for advice when needed.
Even Dogs with Thick Fur Need Extra Care in the Winter
Regardless of your dog’s breed and regardless of what you might think his tolerance level for the cold, snow, and ice is, it is important to always be considerate of your dog’s comfort and wellbeing. Many dogs cannot clearly convey to us when they are in pain or are uncomfortable, so it is up to you to keep a close eye on them. Thankfully, with a bit of attention and by using some of the supplies mentioned here, you can keep your dog healthy, happy, and comfortable all year long!