For all of our Game of Thrones fans out there “Winter is Coming.” Now that the weather is getting cooler, and the days are getting shorter, many of us are preparing for the impending winter. I always hear suggestions for ways folks can winterize their homes, cars, gardens, etc. I haven’t seen as much about ways to winterize dogs! No, I’m not referring to topping off their coolant and changing their wiper blades. Although, now you have a mental picture of a dog with wiper blades. You’re welcome.
Here are five ways to prepare for a safe, comfortable, and fun winter for you and your dogs. For those of you that are in climates that are warm, feel free to read along as you laugh at all of us who will be wielding shovels soon enough.
Tip One - Assemble the Gear
You’re going to need some equipment to be fully prepared for the cold weather. Here’s what you should have:
Dog Coat and/or Sweater - If your dog has a thick coat that is designed for keeping your dog comfortable, like a Saint Bernard, you most likely won’t need a coat or other outerwear. If you have a dog like a Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, or any other short hair dog, you probably will. Not all coats are created equal. Some look fun but aren’t particularly functional or warm. We’ve had great luck with products from places like Kurgo, Ruffwear, and Hurtta. Make sure you properly measure your dog so you order the correct size.
Dog Boots - It’s not just for comic relief, although it is HYSTERICAL to watch a dog wear boots for the first time. Bean is a diva who will not go potty on snow or ice. Boots are a necessity for her in order for nature to be called. Yoda, doesn’t appear to feel any type of pain as evidenced by him running full-force into a door and using his head like a battering ram. He is unaffected by cold and we don’t use boots for him as a result.
Dog-Friendly Ice Melt - If you have to use ice melt, be aware that the chemicals can damage your dog’s paws and can be harmful if ingested. We use Paw Thaw, which is safe for paws.
Dog Wipes - Even if you’re using a safe ice melt, I still recommend using wipes as soon as you get inside to clean your dog’s paws of any chemicals, ice pieces, etc. This is a good time to check if your dog has any injuries on their paws that may need attention.
Paw Wax - If you are not using boots, consider using a wax that provides a layer of protection for your dog’s paw pads when they go out into the elements. We’ve really enjoyed using PawTector from the Natural Dog Company (use code BEANPARTY for a 10% Discount) if you buy some for your pup. Their PawSoother helps to heal cracks and dry paws naturally.
Reflective Gear & Flashlight - Chances are, it is darker earlier meaning you’ll likely be walking your dog when the sun has gone down. It’s important that you are wearing reflective gear and that your dog is too. I recommend bringing a flashlight and putting a flashing light on your dog’s harness or collar so everyone is visible.
Tip Two - Ward Off Boredom
Cabin fever is as real for dogs as it is for humans. If you’re all cooped up inside for long periods, your dog might engage in destructive behavior, or become lethargic. We have taken our dogs to doggy daycare at least once a week in the winter months so they can romp and play with other pups. I’ve heard of other people hiring dog walkers who will take their dog out to go and spend time playing with them inside so they get exercise and enrichment even if it’s too cold outside or there’s inclement weather.
There are TONS of enrichment toys, such as puzzles and DIY projects that you can use to keep your dog stimulated even if you’re stuck inside. Outward hound, for example, has a huge number of puzzles to choose from.
We use our time together inside to practice training. We set up obstacle courses in the living room. We set up blankets on the floor and hide treats for scent training. We’ll practice “stay” as we toss treats and give the dogs a release command after they wait for a window of time.
Tip Three - Provide a Warm Retreat
We put the dog beds in front of our heating vents for the dogs to warm up in front of once they come in from the cold. We also recommend having heavier blankets added to their bedding so that they can snuggle under the covers. If your dogs are anything like ours, they’ll snuggle close to you to steal your body heat while they are under the covers.
Tip Four - Know your Breed
Some breeds are designed to be in cooler temperatures. It’s important that you know your dog’s breed standards and the conditions that they are capable of enduring. That being said, each dog is an individual who may deviate from breed standards. Closely observe your dog for any signs of distress or physical discomfort.
Our friends at 1 800 PetMeds put together a great article on ways to recognize if your dog is suffering from hypothermia. I recommend reading it and familiarizing yourself with the symptoms and treatment.
Tip Five - She puts the lotion in the basket or she gets the hose again...
Moisturize! Just like humans, your dogs can get dry skin during colder months. Limit the amount of times you bathe your dog to reduce the likelihood of them drying out. Additionally, consider using coconut oil or fish oil in their diets to help them from the inside out. I will also use a small amount of coconut oil directly on Bean’s coat to reduce irritation, and dryness.
Tip Six - Drink Beer
Well, this is for the humans. When you’re stuck inside, you might as well have some yummy beer to help tide you over. Bring on the stouts and lagers! What’s your favorite winter time beer to enjoy?