Just because the weather is changing doesn’t mean your dog walking routine should. Sticking to regular walks will help you and your dog avoid packing on pounds during the colder months.
Unfortunately, it’s not always fun or comfortable to walk your dog in the fall or winter. If you normally walk your dog before you leave for work, or after you get home, it’s likely dark or dusk when you go out. Add colder temperatures, and potentially rain and snow, and suddenly the walk can become treacherous.
To make sure your dog stays safe, follow these tips:
Make Sure You’re Seen
It’s unnerving for a car to skim by you when you're in a crosswalk or just about to step off the curb. In most cases, it’s an accident though. The darkness can make it really hard for drivers to see you, especially if there is rain or snow on their windshields.
To make sure you and your dog don’t have any close calls, use reflective clothing and gear. The more items you use, the better chance there is that you’ll get noticed. Consider using a reflective leash, collar, and reflective vest or jacket. But remember that reflective gear only works when a light shines on it. Cars waiting to turn are not shining their lights directly on you, so you can further increase your visibility by placing a light on your dog.
Ensure Your Dog Stays Warm
In the most frigid temperatures, frostbite and hypothermia are real risks. At the very least, your dog will be uncomfortable on walks if they get very cold. This means they will enjoy the walks less and may not want to go the next time you grab the leash.
Whether your dog has an abundance of fur or thin fur, stop periodically to feel their body temperature. Be sure to check their ears, feet, and limbs because those areas are harder for them to keep warm.
If your dog's body is not toasty warm to the touch, consider putting a jacket on them. When their core body temperature is elevated, it will be easier for their extremities to stay warm. You may also want to consider a snood to protect their ears and warmers to protect their legs.
Protect the Feet
Healthy feet are very important. Without them, your dog won’t make it out the front door. There are a lot of dangers in fall and winter, so make sure you check your dog's feet often and watch for conditions on the ground. It can be more difficult to spot things like broken glass or sharp objects in the dark, and salts or de-icers can burn your dog's paws or make them sick if they lick it.
Always inspect your dog's feet when you get back from your walk. Watch for limping while out walking because your dog could have a cut or have something stuck between their foot pads. Consider using a paw balm to form a barrier that can protect your dog's feet from chemicals and help them handle abrasion better (like from snow or sand on the sidewalk). If the ground is excessively cold, or you want to be extra sure that nothing sticks to their feet, put a pair of booties on them.
Help Them Not Get Lost
A dog is more likely to be spooked in the dark. They may yank the leash out of your hands and run off. Taking a few simple precautions can be the difference between a brief scare and a heartbreaking search for your furry family member.
First, make sure their ID tags aren’t damaged and the contact information is up-to-date. With a digital ID tag from PetHub, you can quickly and easily update the info before you head out for your walk. Although this effort starts way before you head out the door, make sure your dog has been trained to have a solid recall. That way you can be confident they will stop in their tracks and come back to you, even if scared or distracted.
With a few precautions, walking with your dog in the fall and winter can still be fun and safe.