By Barb Seegers and Eugenia Vlasova
“When the weather outside is frightful”, we, humans, prefer to enjoy the warmth of our homes. However, if you are a dog owner, you may not be able to afford that luxury. Most dogs need to go outside every day, any day, no matter what. While you can’t cancel those walks with your four-legged family member, you can make them safer and more comfortable for yourself and your canine companion.
Take good care of those paws
Winter roads pose considerable risk to your dog. Dog boots keep the dog from having snow matting in their paws as well as not getting cut by ice or ice melters and salt.
Although the best option for buying dog boots is to actually bring the dog into the pet store and try them on, it isn’t always feasible to do so. If you are unable to bring the dog to the store try the following.
Start by ensuring that the nails are properly trimmed. Putting a paw with untrimmed nails into a boot could cause pushing on the nails which will be incredibly uncomfortable for the dog. Place the paw on a blank piece of paper and, including the length of the nails, mark the front & back of the paw. Measure the distance between the two lines to get the full measurement of the length. Continue to do the same on both the left and right sides of the paw for the total width. This will give you a good guideline for what size of boot you will need to buy.
There are some paw coverings that are more flexible and possibly more comfortable than others. Some are more like little socks that have a gripping material on the bottom. Dogs typically get used to this style more quickly than the harder molded plastic, rubber or leather boots. It may be helpful to start the dog with the sock-style first so that he/she gets used to having something on their paws. You can then upgrade to something a little stiffer as he/she gets used to them.
If your dog refuses to wear boots, trim the hair between the toes short so the ice won’t accumulate there. Apply paw wax before going outside – this will help to protect the skin from hazardous and irritating chemicals. Right after the walk wipe the paws with a clean warm wet washcloth and a towel to dry.
Many people notice that their skin gets drier in winter. Pets are not much different, so it is a good idea to moisturize your dog’s paws with a pet safe skin conditioner or coconut oil.
Dog Sweaters and Coats
Some dogs just love snow, but if your pooch is not of one of those cold-resistant breeds you might want to consider sweaters, jackets and coats. Winter clothes keep a layer of air between the coat and the dog, basically insulating a pet from cold air. They also aid in absorbing excess moisture. If your dog sweats a lot when walking, you may need more than one sweater, because wet clothes make a body colder and increase the risk of hypothermia.
When picking out a sweater or coat measure the circumference of the dog’s neck as well as the chest. It is also helpful to know the weight of the dog to ensure you choose something that will fit snugly but not too tight.
The length should end just before the tail and the underside of the sweater or coat should end midway on the belly.
The leg and neck hold should allow free movement but not be “sloshy” which could allow the dog to pull out of the holes.
A pullover type is the best option as sweaters with zippers can catch on their fur or even their skin when being done up by the owner.
How To Dress Up For The Walk
Forget about that onion style attire. Winter clothes should insulate you from the cold, and the best insulator on earth is … air. So, rather than putting one layer of clothes after another and squeezing into a tight coat, pick a light, but warm winter jacket that would allow you to move freely and enjoy your winter walk.
A scarf around your neck will prevent your body warmth from escaping from your jacket.
We feel warm when our feet are warm and to keep those feet warm, you’ll need thick socks. Pick your winter footwear half a size larger – tight shoes or boots prevent proper circulation and make us feel colder than it actually is. Obviously, anti-slip soles are also a must have for winter footwear.
Next, you may hate those silly hats, but if you plan to walk longer than two minutes, you’d better put one on. Overexposing your head to the cold air is quite dangerous and may result in serious vascular problems, not to mention that there is a great amount of heat loss from the top of the head.
Staying warm and safe from frostbite and cuts is a key consideration for humans but we really do need to think about our four legged friends too. Not all dogs are bred for the winters we get and it is our responsibility, as good pet parents, to protect our dogs the best we can.