I look back with fond memories to the Christmas holidays I went skiing with my dog Tabata. I’d divide my time between mornings spent on the ski slopes and afternoons enjoying long walks in the fresh snow with her. As wonderful as this experience can be, we have to remember to observe some important rules when we take our dog out walking in the snow. As we prepare our winter wardrobe to face the icy elements in locations such as these, our dog needs to be kitted out too. Here then are the three things to remember when dog walking in the snow…
1- Keep paws safe!
When preparing our pet for the icy weather, we should remember that they sweat through their paws, and when sweat comes into contact with the snow, it can freeze and lock the toes or even cut the skin. Back then on holiday with Tabata, I still used home remedies to protect my pup. For years I used a very pasty Vaseline (like the ones tattooists use), and wrapped her feet to protect against freezing. However, I still had an issue when she was running on the ice, which became as sharp as a blade making her paws very sore. Moreover, walking through the mountain resorts you’d often find that the pavements were covered with tiny crystals of salt or sand, which could be extremely annoying if it became stuck between the toes.
Fortunately today, there are a wide variety of high quality products made of high-tech materials to kit out our canines. Browsing the Internet, you can find a number of companies that produce accessories like leashes, harnesses, muzzles and also shoes.
The criteria for choosing the suitable shoes for our dog are similar to those for us humans. First of all, you have to focus on the size: a tight shoe will pinch, one too large will rub. After purchasing them, you have to get the dog accustomed to the shoe, using them indoors for practice first before using outdoors on dog walks. At first, our friend will be clumsy in them but will eventually become more adept at using them with the passage of time.
2- Let’s keep warm!
It seems to happen more and more often these days that we meet some poor dog that has been dressed up. Furthermore, making them wear reindeer horns or dressing them in the same outfit as the owner to get in to the Christmas spirit seems to be all the rage. Everyone can dress up as they like, but do not force your dogs to follow you on the red carpet! That said, a coat is fundamental when dog walking in the snow. There are only a few criteria to sourcing a good one but they should be followed to the letter.
– First, the size must always be adequate. If it is too tight, the dog will hardly be able to move, and it could try to scratch and rub itself along the walls out of irritation. A coat that is too large, however, will let too much air in and not help the animal stay warm.
– The material must not be synthetic or, worse still, plastic waxed, because these type of fabrics will create a layer of moisture between the dog and the coat that will stagnate on the pet. There are commercially available products that insulate the dog from the snow but let the body breathe at the same time. True, the cost of these products may be significantly more than the others but they guarantee superior protection.
3- The fur
Another golden rule to keep in mind when you take your dog out in the snow is not to groom him. The fur is, in fact, the animal’s first protection against the elements. When it’s cold, the small ice crystals that form in the coat should not be pulled out when you come back from a walk but must be dissolved with patience with the help of a hair dryer before you comb. Being knowledgeable about the physical features of the breed of your dog is a sign of love.
If it is the first time that our four-legged friend has seen the snow, we can expect some erratic and amusing behaviour. You may see your dog eat the snow, roll, jump like a grasshopper, or even dig a hole to dive in to or simply refuse to budge and not want to continue: all these things are part of a new experience you will share together.
And together you’ll make some great memories to take home with you.
Article authored by Luca Scanavacca, dog trainer