With temperatures dropping and wintry weather on the way, our four-legged friends need to be ready for winter too. We have some helpful tips to help you keep your doggy friends safe and warm and avoid potentially hazardous winter walks.
Keeping your dog warm
Let your dog's winter coat grow, and particularly if you have a puppy, short-haired or old dog, buy him a sensible winter coat - a high visibility coat will ensure your dog can be seen in the dark.
It's important to introduce a coat carefully so your dog finds it comfortable and enjoyable to wear. Dogs can sometimes find it difficult having items such as harnesses and coats places over their heads and around their bodies so always use extra tasty treats the first few times you put the coat onto your dog and give them treats all the while you're putting it on them and doing it up, and then once they start moving in it too, because this might feel very weird for them to begin with. They'll need to learn to get used to the feel of it and how it affects their natural movement, so scatter feeding and letting them just move around to find the treats on the ground will be immediately both distracting and rewarding for them. If this happens every time their coat goes on they'll soon look forward to wearing it once you appear with it at walkies time.
Top tips for winter walks
- Keep your dog on a lead if it is snowing heavily. Snow can be disorientating so they might easily become lost.
- Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and an ID tag and is microchipped. It is important to ensure your microchipping database is up to date with your address and contact details. Find out how to update your dog's details.
- Make sure you wipe your dogs' legs, feet and stomach when you come indoors after a snowy or wintry walk as the grit from the roads can irritate their feet. Lifting up a dog's paws can make a dog feel vulnerable as they can't easily avoid anything that might suddenly worry them. Using tasty treats to build a very positive and rewarding association whenever you touch and lift your dog's paws will mean that they learn to cope with having their feet touched, lifted and wiped. If you get the training bug you could even teach your dog to wipe their own paws by running over a towel!
- Never leave your dog in a car during extreme weather, hot or cold.
- Do not let your dog walk on frozen ponds - the ice may not be thick enough to take their weight. If your dog does fall through the ice never be tempted to go in after him. If possible encourage him to swim back to you and call the emergency services.
- Antifreeze is highly poisonous but tasty to dogs. Keep it well out of their reach and mop up any spills!
- Safety first – think about your own footwear when you're going out with your dog in winter, and make sure you are as visible as your dog. High-visibility clothing is just as important for owners as it is for dogs so everyone is safe.
- If it's extra cold it can be very difficult to do up lead clips and attach them to collars and harnesses. Wet weather may also make metal clips rust. Regularly check that your dog's leads, collars, and harnesses are all functioning safely and not at risk of wear and tear damage during winter weather.
Keeping your dog active
It can be difficult to keep dogs physically exercised during these dark evenings, especially when public parks are closed at dusk. Our tips will help keep walks fun and your dog active, even if the weather is bad:
- You can provide lots of entertainment for your dog when parks are closed by walking different ways to normal, so they can experience new sights, sounds and smells.
- Incorporate some little training sessions within your walks to liven them up. Take treats with you and reward your dog for doing a trick along each street you walk down. Or bring their favourite toy and have a little game outside if there's a safe place to do so while they're safely on-lead. You can also lay treat-trails for them to sniff out and follow or create doggy-parkour (or barkour) by using treats to guide them to circle street furniture such as benches and lampposts, all of which you can do on-lead so they're always safe.
- You can play these types of games indoors too – even hiding their toys for them to search for and playing with them as a reward when they find them.
- Treat your dog to some fun and games that are educational and valuable too by enrolling them in a Dogs Trust Dog School training course! We offer short training courses for puppies, adolescents and adult dogs teaching important skills in a fun and positive environment. Class sizes are deliberately small with lots of support so everyone reaches their full potential.
- You might be spending more time indoors if the weather's very bad so always make sure your dog has plenty to do – as well as teaching them to settle and relax when you're doing the same, or when you're busy. Long-lasting tasty chews, or rubber food-releasing toys are useful for giving your dog something enjoyable to do all by themselves without needing your constant attention.
Download our guide to enrichment for more ideas on stimulating your dog.
Enrichment Guide PDF 821 KB