Winter is approaching fast. Before you know it, the days will be short, the Christmas lights will be up, and you’ll be brewing yourself a cup of hot cocoa to fight off the winter chill.
However, winter presents a different set of challenges for dog owners, especially for those living in areas with extreme seasonal changes in weather.
As a dog walker in Chicago for several winters, I faced blizzard conditions and sub-zero temperatures while making sure to keep my pups safe, and I learned what dog owners need to get through the cold months.
Here are a few items no dog owner should go without in the winter season.
1. Paw Protection
The snow and ice can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for dogs’ paws, but even worse is the salt that snowplows and shovelers spread along the streets and sidewalks to melt the ice. That salt combined with ice creates a reaction that burns dogs’ paws.
There are two great options for avoiding this: dog booties and paw wax. Some people swear by having boots for their dog that attach with velcro, but I’ve found those difficult to deal with, and they fall off easily.
For that reason, rubber booties are the better choice. They usually stay on well, so long as you get the right size for your pooch, they’re waterproof, and they’re disposable. Additionally, you can usually reuse them for quite a long time.
The second option, paw wax, is for dogs who absolutely refuse to allow anything to be wrapped around their feet. For those picky pups, there’s a wax-like cream that you can rub on their paw pads and between their toes.
It will have to be cleaned off at the end of the walk unless you want waxy paw prints all over the house; however, it keeps paws from feeling the burn.
2. A Dog Jacket
Dogs have a natural defense against the cold with their own fur coats, but for those with short, thin hair or those who live in extremely cold areas, a jacket harness is a must.
You’ll want one that is at least decently waterproof to keep the snow from sinking in, and one that allows you to easily attach a leash for walks.
It’s important to follow sizing instructions carefully when you measure your dog to find the right coat. A coat that’s too tight will be uncomfortable, and a coat that’s too loose will not protect against the cold as well and can drag along the ground and get dirty.
3. High-Dexterity Gloves
When you’re holding a leash in freezing temperatures, you’re going to need some gloves that can keep you from getting frostbite and let you keep a strong grip on the leash.
You’d be surprised how often you need to use your hands during a walk, but there will be plenty of times where you’ll need to knock snow out of your pup’s fur, clear debris from their paws, or pick up after them. This means you’ll have to be able to move your fingers easily while staying warm.
4. Waterproof Boots
You may think you can avoid trudging through snow by sticking to plowed sidewalks and streets. However, sometimes you’ll need to take your pooch for a walk before the snowplows arrive, and as the snow melts into slush, you’ll stomp through puddles left and right.
There’s nothing that can chill you faster and make you more uncomfortable on a walk than wet socks. For that reason, waterproof boots that let you walk through the snow are a must.
5. Hand Warmers
Even with the best gloves and boots, your extremities are the first things to get cold when you go outside. If you don’t keep them warm, you risk frostbite.
Seeing as you’ll be using your hands and feet a lot on walks, it’s extra important that you take care of them. Hand warmers are soft packets that cause a reaction that produces heat when shaken.
Having a set of these in your pocket to stuff in your gloves or boots on an extra cold day is a godsend. Keeping your hands and feet toasty will help you grip the leash, maintain your footing, and react quickly.
6. Warm Underclothes
If you want to fight the chill on a winter walk, this is my advice: layer, layer, layer. The best thing you can do is start with a tight-fitting first layer that stays close to the skin and traps body heat.
I can’t recommend layering enough in winter. My underclothing was a lifesaver in the Chicago winter conditions. If you live in a warm climate, certain lines of underclothing draw heat away from the body and can help you stay comfortable in the elements when you’re out walking your dog, too.
7. Pet-friendly Ice Melt
As I mentioned earlier, salt is a nightmare for dog paws in icy conditions. But that doesn’t mean you have to let the ice and snow gather around your front steps or driveway. There are salt-free, pet-friendly options, and a lot of the time they work better and leave less residue than salt.
Some are guaranteed to be non-toxic and safe for pets, children, vegetation, and brick and stone paths. They tend to run a bit more expensive than regular salt, but you’ll be saving your pup from a lot of pain and potential vet bills for burn treatments.
8. Doggy Towel
No matter how much time you spend getting clumps of snow out of your dog’s fur, they’re going to be tracking in plenty of wetness around your house. This can make things quite slippery and, especially in urban areas, muddy.
Having a towel by the door for wiping off paws and a doormat to shake off excess snow is certainly helpful. But once your pup runs loose, snow will be falling off everywhere.
There are a few products that look a bit like bath robes for dogs. They’re actually a neat idea and would go pretty far in absorbing some of the moisture that melts off your pup. They would also be useful year-round for rainy days, trips to the lake, or after bath time.
With this winter gear, you’ll find handling the cold and snow is much easier when it’s time to take the pup for a walk. What winter gear do you use with your dog? Let us know in the comments below!
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