Top Ten tips to get the most out of winter walks

Top Ten tips to get the most out of winter walks

As the days get colder and shorter, and you start to look out those waterproof coats, warm gloves and woolly hats for winter walks, it’s important to consider how the change in weather can affect your four-legged walking companion too. A regular walk is not only vitally important for your dog’s health but is also a great opportunity for bonding with your furry friend, clearing your mind and getting in those steps too!

Although there are some obvious do’s and don’ts when walking in winter, such as avoiding frozen lakes, there are some commonly overlooked things to consider when venturing out with your pup. 

Bella & Duke’s Natural Canine Behaviourist, Caroline Spencer Dip.AdvCanBhv, lists her top 10 tips for making sure your walks are safe but still fun for you and your dog:

  1. Dog coats- as soon as the rain and cold temperatures descend, many pet owners are often quick to throw a jacket on their dogs, when in reality many of them will not need it. Some dog breeds are already well equipped with double coats and will simply need a good dry down as soon as possible after a walk and grooming to untangle snow caught in their fur. Dogs breeds that have no undercoat and those who have been clipped will feel the cold instantly and they certainly need a coat to keep warm and dry with even small temperature drops. Dogs with less hair may actually prefer to not venture out at all during winter weather, but if you do, a coat is a good idea to provide extra warmth, but again only if your dog is comfortable wearing it.

  2. Try different locations – variety is truly the spice of life. Going on a walk can be the highlight of your dog’s day so it’s important that they enjoy it! Let your dog have a little more choice during their walk. You could let them decide whether to go left or right, and really live in the moment with them, of course ensuring it’s safe to go the way they choose.

  3. Keep active and warm when out and about – nothing makes you want to get inside quicker than a cold frosty day, so wrap up and ensure your dog is on the move. Monitor your dog’s activity, by running around and playing in the snow they’ll generate heat and be nice and warm but once they start to slow down for an on-lead walk or they are popped in the car, their temperature will drop, so be sure to towel them down or pop on a drying coat to ensure they don’t lose too much heat too quickly. Remember, your dog can still get dehydrated when it’s cold, bring along some cool water for them.

  4. Create opportunities for sniffing & enrichment - sometimes a shorter walk is a better option when it is really cold or wet, but it’s important to engage your dog’s brain by encouraging them to sniff or play with toys on your walk. Not only will this ensure they are getting the most out of their walk but it’s a fun way to build a bond with your pet.

  5. Get plenty of rest – if you and your pet are feeling particularly tired and can’t bear the thought of stepping out into the cold, that’s absolutely fine. Have a rest day with short trips out to do the necessaries.

  6. Taking the car – an easily overlooked fact is that your car is cold. Bringing your dog straight from your walk and sending them straight into the cold car will lower their body temperature immediately. If you can, avoid bringing your car and continue the walk home or have the heating run a little before they climb in.

  7. Taking care of your dog’s paws post-walkies – we’re often quick to throw out grit, salt and de-icer to clear up paths but these are all irritants for our furry friends who are walking bare foot. Make sure you clean up their paws, give them a good towel down or pop on a drying coat when you get in from a walk.

  8. Take in your surroundings – enjoy the quieter hours of the day and take in your surroundings. Going on a walk shouldn’t be a tick box exercise and is the perfect opportunity for you and your dog to spend quality time together. Get them back to nature and help them do what comes naturally to them, with lots of sniffing, foraging and exploration.

  9. Picking walking times – if possible, leave your walks until a little later in the morning when hopefully the sun is up or at least the temperature has gone up a notch or two. To keep spirits high, try take the opportunity when there is a break in the weather.   
  1. Puppies and older dogs - also be aware of your dog’s age as puppies under 12 months as well as older, less active dogs will feel the effects of the cold quicker. Consider a coat for them if they will accept it and keep an eye on them for signs of shivering.

Walking should be fun for both you and your dog, even in the winter months it’s important to set aside some bonding time and take them for a walk. It’s a great way for you to build a healthy connection, both pre and post walk. Remember to keep them well groomed, pack them a coat if they need one and most of all enjoy your time with your furry friend before the chaos of Christmas commences.

This is a guest post by Caroline Spencer Dip.AdvCanBhv, Natural Canine Behaviourist.

Alessandra Pacelli

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