Dog Walking: Pro Tips for Pet Safety
For many of us, it is safe to say the last thing on our minds right now is spending time outdoors. With temps dipping into the teens and low 20s, we’re typically going to require a pretty compelling reason for donning our winter gear and getting outside. However, while it is a bit tough to cultivate some enthusiasm for the chill of winter, it isn’t as hard to generate a warm feeling for our pet pooch.
Our canine companions need daily exercise – and this often comes in the form of walking. Dog walking is more than exercise, though, as it allows your pet necessary socialization which keeps him or her accustomed to other dogs, people, and new sights, sounds, and smells.
Best Practices for Winter Dog Walking Safety
January is National Walk Your Dog Month, and since we are in a wintery region, your friends at Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital thought now would be a great time to talk about the importance of walking your dog, but with a focus on cold climate walking.
- On colder days, consider going for two shorter walks (rather than that longer stroll) to minimize your dog’s exposure to freezing temps or inclement weather.
- If possible, try to take your dog out during midday, when the sun is high and the temperature has risen.
- For those dogs with a short coat or small frame, we recommend a fitted coat or vest designed to repel moisture and retain warmth. Booties are also a great choice to keep your dog’s paws protected from cold and dangerous road and sidewalk chemicals.
- Keep a close eye on your dog and watch for antifreeze puddles and other hazardous chemicals.
- Bring fresh water – your dog can become dehydrated in winter, too; especially if he or she is doing a lot of running or playing in snow. Encourage your pet to drink plenty of water, before and after you head out the door.
- Avoid walking near frozen ponds, creeks, or other potentially dangerous areas.
- Use a sturdy leather or nylon flat leash no longer than 6 feet in length. Avoid using retractable leashes as they can pose serious dangers to pet owners and their dogs.
- If you observe your pet shivering or displaying other signs of discomfort, get him or her back to the house or another warm place. Pet hypothermia can be just as deadly as heat stroke and frostbite, and can create long-term damage to your pet’s ears, nose, and other exposed areas.
By putting into practice these recommendations for safe winter walking, you and your dog will enjoy the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. If your dog is a senior or has health related challenges, we can recommend some alternatives to lengthy outdoor walks and advise on ways to keep him or her moving.
To help you stay motivated, keep your dog’s winter gear and fresh water, along with your own layers, close to the door and invite another dog owner and canine companion to join you.