Winter Care for Your Dog

20th January 2016

At Bark Busters Home Dog Training we are committed to helping owners to do the very best for their dogs at all times and in all circumstances. The Winter months bring challenges for dogs and it is a good idea for owners to be aware of these so they can take the necessary steps to keep their dogs safe and warm.

Dogs Winter Training TipsDogs feel the cold too!
There is a misconception that, because they have a fur coat, dogs do not feel the cold. Whilst their coats will provide a certain amount of protection they will feel the cold just as we do. If your dog lives indoors with you, he will have become used to the warmth, and going outside into freezing temperatures can be as uncomfortable for him as it is for you. As a guide, if the winter weather is too cold for you to stand outside without wearing a coat, then it may also be too cold for your dog. Dogs with thin/short coats may need to wear a dog coat or knitted jumper when out for walks during cold spells. Even then, a coat won’t protect the ears, nose, feet or tail, so it is a good idea not to keep your short-haired dog out for too long. 

Walkies!
Clearly, you will still want to walk your dog and most dogs will still require and expect their fair share of ‘walkies’ time. You can try to minimise the impact of freezing weather conditions by taking him out for a walk in the middle of the day, rather than early morning and late evening. Going outside when the sun is shining is a good idea as temperatures will be slightly higher, and you can both benefit from a little vitamin D! 

When you take your dog out, always ensure that your dog is wearing his identification tags, such as the Bark Busters WaggTagg™ dog ID tag, and keep him on a lead when out walking in snow and ice. There are a few reasons for this:- 

  • Snow can reduce a dog’s ability to follow scent, and he could therefore go astray.
  • When walking around frozen lakes as your dog may venture onto unsafe ice, and fall through.
  • Icy roads make it more difficult for motorists to stop suddenly. If your dog is off-lead and runs into a road, he is more likely to cause an accident, and could potentially be struck be a car. 

Watch out for signs that your dog is getting overly cold when he is outside. If you notice him shivering, becoming lethargic or if he starts to whine, take him into the warmth and cover him with a light blanket. In extreme situations, or if you identify a low heart-rat, as well as the above actions, you should contact your vet. 

Dogs are also susceptible to frostbite and injury when walking in freezing conditions, so keep their ears, paws and tail in mind. If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from frostbite, take him into the warmth, soak the affected area(s) in lukewarm water for 20 minutes and contact your vet immediately. 

Paws are extremely vulnerable in freezing conditions. Check your dog’s paws regularly for cracked pads, and ensure that the hair that grows between the pads is trimmed to prevent potential ice build-up. Your dog’s feet are in direct content with the surfaces he walks or plays on. His paws can suffer cuts from walking and running on frozen terrain. Additionally, after walking on surfaces that have been gritted or salted, always wash and wipe your dog’s paws to remove any salt. Don’t allow your dog to clean his own paws when he may have been in contact with these substances as they are toxic to dogs! If you are in the habit of getting your dog to sit when you stop, give some thought to altering that to a ‘stand and wait’ as asking your dog to sit on a cold surface is not wise.

Food and Drink
Ensure that fresh water is available at all times and use a plastic water bowl (if water is kept outside) so that your dog’s tongue does not get stuck to frozen metal. Check regularly that the water is not frozen. Don’t be tempted to overfeed your dog as his activity levels will probably be less during the winter than during the summer. You can even place some of his food into a treat reward toy, such as the Bark Busters GameChanger™, so that he has to work for his food, burn off more calories and it will also keep him entertained. 

Antifreeze is only for cars
Antifreeze is essential for keeping our cars running during freezing temperatures, but it is toxic if ingested, and a very small amount can be fatal! Unfortunately, it tastes sweet and so dogs will happily lick or drink it. Keep all antifreeze safely locked away and ensure your dog has no access to areas where antifreeze has been used or stored. 

Outdoor Shelter
If your dog lives outside, or even if he spends periods of time outside, ensure that you provide him with a kennel and that it meets with minimum safety criteria. Fit a flap onto the entrance to the shelter and face away from the weather. The kennel should be raised several inches off the ground and the floor should be covered in clean straw or wood shavings which need to be changed regularly to keep it dry. The kennel needs to be large enough for your dog to sit, stand and turn, but small enough to retain his body heat. 

Please note that older dogs, dogs with arthritis, puppies and small dogs should not be left outside. 

Indoor Bedding
Even if your dog lives indoors, don’t leave them to sleep on a cold floor in winter. Provide a dog bed, blankets or even a heated or raised dog bed. Place the bed in an area away from draughts, or uncarpeted floors. 

Don’t Give Up Your Training Routine
Even though your dog may be spending less time outside during the winter you can still maintain your training exercises. Practise your basic obedience indoors, and play some interactive games with your dog. You can even practise recall, and leadwork in the house and garden. Spending 10-15 minutes each day doing some basic training will help maintain your relationship with your dog, and keep his brain active.

Paying a little extra attention to your dog’s well-being during the winter months means that you can both enjoy the frosty, cold and invigorating weather conditions together. Your dog will certainly appreciate your efforts! 

These tips proudly supplied by Bark Busters Home Dog Training-all rights reserved

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