Kirsty McGovern, Buyer at pet supply specialist Millbry Hill shares her top five tips for taking your dog on a trek during the colder winter months. Read on to find out more.
When the temperature drops, trails get muddy, and everything ices over, enjoying a nice, long walk with your dog can get tricky.
To help you out, I’ve put together my top five tips for surviving winter walkies. From planning your route to making sure your furry friend is comfortable, you’ll find lots of useful advice here.
1 – Choose the best time of day to walk
When you’re choosing the best time to walk your dog, remember that winter evenings can get very dark, very quickly. And, the adverse weather can add extra hazards like icy patches that can increase the risk of you or your furry friend taking a nasty tumble, as well as the potential for deep snow drifts. Therefore, it’s much better to take your dog for a walk during the daytime when you are likelier to spot hazards and vehicles will be able to see you both on unlit country roads.
If you must walk your dog in the evening, be sure to check when the sun will be going down and kit yourselves out with hi-vis wear to boost visibility for when you are crossing unlit roads or heading back home. You will also want to take a torch or lantern with you, just in case you get back later than you anticipated.
2 – Pick the right route for the season
I’ve already mentioned some of the hazards that winter can bring, and you should also take this into account when it comes to choosing a route you want to walk with your dog. A hilly or remote path can be fine in the spring, summer, and even autumn, but the cold weather can pose dangers that you might not have anticipated. Always stick to paths that you know have been cleared.
Try to avoid any routes that you don’t know very well during the winter. If you do take a new path, make sure it isn’t one that goes near potentially frozen lakes or rivers as your dog could end up cracking the ice and falling into freezing water. And, unless you know what’s beneath deep snow, don’t walk through it, as you could end up injuring your pooch’s paws.
3 – Watch out for dog-unfriendly substances
You may not have realised it, but some of the substances we use to improve safety in winter are actually harmful for our furry friends. De-icer and anti-freeze are both highly toxic, but have a sweet taste that can attract passing dogs. For walkers who’ve spent the day away from their vehicle, it’s often enough time for a car to frost over and they may need to apply one of these products to get going again.
Take extra care if you’ve travelled to your walking route by car and need to access a car park or you need to cross one on your route. Watch out for anyone applying de-icer to their vehicle and don’t let your dog off the lead anywhere near parked cars. Take a look at this guide from Vets Now, which will help you spot the warning signs of ingestion and help you take the right action.
4 – Make sure you’re both comfortable in the cold
When you’re outside in the cold with your dog, you need to make sure that you’re both sufficiently wrapped up. A thick, waterproof jacket is a must for yourself, and you may also need to look into getting a coat for your furry friend, too. They come in a variety of styles and weights, so you will need to pick one that suits your pet: breeds with thicker fur may need a lightweight coat, while dogs with shorter fur or less mobility could require a heavyweight coat.
Pay attention to any signs that your dog is too cold when they are outdoors. Your pet may begin to exhibit tell-tale behaviour like shivering, whining, or holding up one of their legs if they are struggling. They may also begin to act anxiously or with low energy. If you’re trying to gauge if it’s too chilly outside, this guide from PetPlan has an easy-to-read chart that tells you how cold is too cold for your pooch depending on its size.
5 – Dry your dog before / after a walk
Just like you wouldn’t leave the house on a cold day with damp hair to avoid catching the chills, it’s important to remember that the same applies to your dog. If they’ve been doing something that could have gotten their coat wet, such as having a drink or snuffling around the garden, you should dry them off before you take them for a winter walk.
Likewise, if you’ve both been out in the snow, frost, or rain, you’ll need to make sure their coat is nice and dry. Often, using a towel will be enough, but if your dog is drenched, it’s worth using a pooch-friendly hairdryer to get them warmed up again.
Take my five tips on board and you and your dog will be able to enjoy some excellent winter walks together. Just remember to plan ahead and take precautions so you’re both safe.