Should I Walk My Dog in the Snow?
It has been a relatively mild winter for lots of Canada so far, but that changed this week for many provinces. Many cities are experiencing extremely cold temperatures and tons of snowfall. So what does this mean for our dogs who still need exercise?
Those Snowy Dog Walks
Of course you should walk your dog in the snow – but only if it is safe to do so! Living in Canada, we can’t escape surprise snows but there are ways to enjoy them with your dog. There are precautions and steps you should take when walking your dog in the snow, as well as understanding that sometimes it’s just too cold for your dog to go out.
Some things to consider before going for a walk in the snow are your dog’s breed, their age and their overall health. Always check the weather before leaving, plan on how long and where you’re going on your walk, and ask yourself if your dog could benefit from protective gear. Winter walks can be more complicated than regular walks – so let’s dive into some vet tips and advice for safely walking your dog in the snow.
Is your dog well suited for walking in the snow?
Your dog’s breed matters when it comes to winter walks because some dogs are genetically designed to live in the cold while others are not. Walking a furry Siberian Husky in the snow is drastically different than walking an Italian Greyhound in the snow (hint: the Italian Greyhound is going to get colder way faster).
Smaller dogs with less fur are typically more sensitive to cold temperatures than larger dogs with darker and furrier coats. Your dog’s age and health are also something to consider, as senior dogs and puppies don’t have the same stamina as adults (like us!). If your dog has any health conditions, consult your veterinarian about any concerns before going on winter walks.
When is it too cold for a walk?
As a rule of thumb, small dogs should not go out in temperatures at or below -5C and medium/larger dogs should stay in if temperatures are at or below -10C. When checking the temperature before going for a walk you should also consider the windchill. We would not recommend going for a walk in freezing rain, extremely windy conditions or during a snowstorm. If it’s a little chilly outside, but the skies are blue and the sun is shining, going for a walk is doable. Same as if it’s lightly snowing and the temperatures are above freezing, walking with your pup shouldn’t be a concern.
If you’re still unsure, ask yourself if you would comfortably walk outside. If the answer is no, your dog won’t be comfortable either. Always remember that wetter conditions in the cold can result in frostbite and in severe cases, hypothermia.
If you’ve decided to go out and you notice your dog is lifting some paws, not wanting to move forward, whining, barking strangely or shivering – then they are likely too cold, and you should make it short. A good tip is to always stay close to home or your vehicle when walking your dog in the winter.
Preparing your dog for winter walks
If your dog isn’t well suited for winter walks, investing in some protective gear is a great idea to ensure your dog can get some physical activity. This includes warm booties and winter jackets (which can be pretty cute, we admit).
With time, they will get used to it. Try to familiarize your dog with wearing boots or a jacket at home a few times before leaving the house. If you live somewhere where freezing temperatures are constant throughout winter, you should invest in protective gear no matter what type of dog you own.
Hazards to look out for
In the winter, people use a lot of antifreeze and salt chemicals to reduce slippery ice on walkways. These things are extremely toxic and are hazards to look out for when winter walking with your dog. Antifreeze tastes sweet, which is why it attracts animals. And unfortunately, many dogs die every year from ingesting it.
Secondly, running into piles and trails of salt on the ground is also very common in the winter, but salt can easily irritate your dog’s paws. So be sure to keep your dog away from salt if you can. To avoid these things, it’s best to keep your dog on a leash in the snow and get into the habit of cleaning your dog’s paws every time you return from a walk to reduce the chances of harmful chemicals irritating their skin.
The Snowy Conclusion
Obviously, daily physical activity is something that needs to be maintained throughout the last winter days in spring for your dog. Whenever it’s too cold for a walk, try playing with your pooch at home to keep them mentally stimulated. There’s nothing worse than a pent-up dog that’s anxious for play.
Teaching a dog a new trick or playing fetch indoors are good ways to keep them busy as well as going for shorter, more frequent walks. Considering all these factors for snowy walks will ensure a safe and successful walk with your pooch.