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12 Winter Tips for Dog Pawrents

A dog enjoying winter

So it is getting cold, and those long leisurely walks of summer past isn’t an option. You don’t have to give up, there are a lot of things you can do inside to strengthen the bond with your doggo as well as many ways to “winterize your dog.” Here are some suggestions for both.

Keep your canine companion active

A dog with a sweater on ready for a winder walk

Despite the weather, it's vital to keep your best friend moving and active. Why? When it comes to your dog's muscle tone and endurance, it's often a "use or lose it" scenario. And while younger dogs can rebound rather quickly, senior dogs struggle to rebuild their muscles (which they need for balance and joint support).

1. Invest time in indoor games

While your forever friend can’t wander aimlessly for hours in your living room, there are a number of games that you can play together indoors. Just remember that they don’t have long attention spans, so vary the sessions and keep them short.

Fetch

Just toss one of your dog’s favorite toys and have them bring it back to you. Then reward them with a treat. This will strengthen your bond and help to remind them that you are still the one in charge--best yet, you can play fetch indoors or outside!

Hide the treat

Take your dog out of the room, then hide a few of their favorite treats. Let them back into the room and have fun watching them scurry around, looking for the hidden morsels.

Recall practice

This works really well if you have a home with stairs, but it requires you and a partner. One of you stands at the bottom of the stairs, the other at the top. Call the dog, and watch them run up. Then the partner at the bottom calls the dog. Up and down, Up and down. You can burn quite a few calories and give them a great cardio workout too.

Interactive toys

Toys that flash or squeak can be great during those boring winter nights. It is especially good if it is a toy that your dog likes to chew. They can entertain themselves and burn off some of that excess energy. The chewing will also naturally relax and calm them.

Tug-of-war

Too cold to go out, then play tug of war with your doggo inside. There are a lot of rope toys on the market, or you can make your own by tying the ends of a ½ thick piece of hemp rope together. But be careful, your dog might get excited and latch onto your hand instead of the rope.

T-shirt tug-of-war

This is a personalized version of tug-of-war. Take one of your old t-shirts and cut it into strips. Then braid it. Tie the ends in knots, and you have an inexpensive toy for a good game of tug-of-war. 

2. Training and tricks offer extra mental stimulation

Since you are stuck indoors, you might as well put the time to good use. Work on the various tricks that you and your doggo have learned and try to add a few more to the repertoire. Fetch, shake, circle, spin, etc. are all fun tricks to learn with your dog.

This is a great time to work on obedience as well. Make sure that your forever friend will come, sit, stay and lay down. Keep the sessions short and make it fun so both of you enjoy it.

3. Enjoy some Winter walks

If the weather is cold, you might want to keep your walks shorter. You might have to adjust the time because the sun rises later in the day and sets earlier. Both you and your dog need to be careful of any icy patches of road or sidewalk. And remember that puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to the cold, so keep an eye on their condition as you walk in colder weather. If your dog has gotten wet, make sure that you dry them off when you get inside.

Gear up for the conditions

A dog comfortable during the winter

People are the only ones that benefit from some winter-specific gear. There are some excellent options on the market to keep your canine companion comfy all winter long.

4. Dog coats and sweaters

Dog coats can be more than just a fashion accessory. If your dog is susceptible to the cold, get them a nice sweater or coat. There are a wide variety on the market, some for cool weather, some for when the temperature really drops. Take your dog shopping with you and make sure that you find one that fits and doesn’t restrict their ability to run and jump. 

5. Evaluate your dog's bed

If you think your doggo is getting cold at night, you can get them a donut shaped bed, a heated bed, or a blanket to keep them warm.

Donut shaped bed

The shape of the bed shelters dogs better than flat beds. Your doggo will curl up, sink in, and nod off before you know it.

Heated beds

Just like electric blankets, a heated bed will keep your doggo warm even on freezing cold nights. You might even want to curl up with your dog for a nice, warm nap.

Dog blankets

Your dog might like a nice lightweight throw blanket at night. Lighter weight blankets make it easier for your doggo to move around and aren’t as restricting. Make sure you get one that will completely cover your dog–you don’t want those tender little paws getting cold.

6. Care for your dog's skin and fur

Shampoo less often and use a product that provides moisture for coat and skin.

Clean their feet if there are chemical deicers being used on the roads or sidewalks. A clean coat will trap more air, thus keeping your dog warmer outside. You might also want to postpone any hair cut till spring. While it might not be as stylish, it will give your dog a little more insulation for the cold weather.

Winter safety for your best friend

A dog with snow in the background

Along with keeping your dog active and cozy, there are many winter dangers you may want to watch out for. Recognizing and avoiding these hazards can make a major difference for your doggo--and maybe even save their life.

7. Watch out for antifreeze

People tend to change the antifreeze in their car as winter approaches. Since it is sweet, dogs and other pets might try to ingest it. It is poisonous and can kill your beloved doggo, so make sure that the antifreeze is disposed of properly and your dog has no chance to drink or lick it.

8. Avoid walking on de-icing chemicals

Most of the chemicals that are used for de-icing roads and walks are hazardous to your furry friend. If you notice that any are being used in areas where you walk, wash your dog’s paws when you get home so that any chemicals that might have picked up are gone.

9. Be cautious of frostbite and hypothermia

While major problems, you need to beware of both if you are out under cold and wet conditions. Look for skin that has turned gray on the paws and ears. It will be very sore and tender when they warm. If your dog is shivering and becomes lethargic, hypothermia might be setting in. Get your dog inside and warm as soon as possible.

10. Avoid heater burns

If you have a heater with open elements, you need to place it carefully so that your dog doesn’t get too close and get burned. Treat your dog like a child–if a heater is dangerous for your child, it is dangerous for your dog.

11. Hydrate your doggo

Your dog can dehydrate in the winter just as easily as in the summer. If your dog is playing outside in colder weather, make sure that they have a fresh bowl of water available and check the water to make sure that it hasn’t turned to ice.

12. Use your lead

In severe winter weather, it is easy for your dog to get lost. Their sense of smell isn’t as effective and lower lighting conditions and snow can make it difficult for your doggo to find you or their way home. So keep them on a short lead.

Winter can be a wonderland for you & your doggo

Two dogs happy during winter

Winter doesn’t have to end the fun times that you share with your life long friend–you just need to be a little more careful and creative. Make sure that you are aware of the health problems that could arise due to the colder weather. When it is cold, dress them up with a fashionable sweater or coat and pay attention to their paws. Give them a warm bed to sleep in and cover them with a nice throw blanket. Spend some fun time with your doggo doing tricks and playing with some new toys. Then, before you know it, spring will have sprung, and you can escape to the great outdoors once again.