As the temperature begins to drop, and snow and freezing weather set to hit parts of the UK, Dogs Trust is urging owners to follow some simple steps to keep their dogs safe and warm this winter.
While many people enjoy a winter stroll, the cold weather poses several risks to dogs and their owners. To help ensuredogs remain healthy and happy, the nation’s largest dog welfare charity has published some easy-to-follow guidance.
Dogs feel the cold just like we do, so it is important to keep them warm. Some breeds grow thick furry coats all year round, so, as the weather gets colder, consider letting your dog’s fur grow longer to give them added protection. Some shorter-haired pooches and puppies may need a little bit of help staying warm, so consider buying them a sensible winter coat. Wearing a coat is a new experience for some dogs and needs to be introduced in a gradual and positive way.
Keep your dog on the lead
If it’s snowing, keep your dog on a lead to protect and prevent them from falling and hurting themselves. Snow can be disorientating for dogs, and they can become easily lost in it. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar, and their microchip details are up to date.
Wipe after walking
Make sure you wipe your dog’s legs, feet and stomach after a walk, as grit from the roads and dampness from rain or snow can irritate their skin.
Don’t 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 them. If possible, encourage them to swim back to you and call the emergency services.
It is highly poisonous but tasty to dogs. Make sure you always keep antifreeze and other chemicals well out of reach and be sure to quickly mop up any spills. Always seek veterinary advice if you think your dog has ingested any.
Your own safety is important too. Before heading out for a walk, make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the weather with a suitable coat and shoes, and ensure you and your dog are visible. As the days grow shorter, consider wearing a high-vis jacket, and use a reflective collar, lead, high visibility coat or flashing collar for your dog. Coats and flashing collars should be introduced gradually to ensure dogs are comfortable wearing them.
Check your lead
Regularly check your dog’s leads, collars and harnesses to make sure they’re all functioning safely and won’t get damaged by winter weather, as wet weather can cause metal clips to rust. It can be trickier to do up lead clips and carabiners and attach them to collars and harnesses when it’s cold, so do this indoors if you can.
Consider indoor games
You might be spending more time indoors if the weather’s very bad, so always make sure your dog has plenty to do. Indoor games like hide and seek, or ‘find it’, are fun and mentally stimulating for your dog. Hide a toy for them to search for and play with them as a reward when they find them. Long-lasting tasty chews, or rubber food-releasing toys and enrichment games are useful for giving your dog something enjoyable to do that is mentally stimulating.
Beckie Wheldon, canine behaviour officer at Dogs Trust, said: “Winter walks can be a lot of fun for both people and dogs alike, and many dogs love to run and play in the snow. But this cold weather brings with it some extra hazards for dogs and their owners.
“The good news is that there are lots of simple things you can do to help your pooch stay safe and warm during cold weather, including keeping your dog on a lead as conditions worsen, wiping their paws after a walk, and taking steps to improve both your own and your dog’s visibility.”