Tails From A Pet Sitter: Walking In A Winter Blunderland
An excited dog and slippery conditions don’t mix. Here’s how to safely walk your four-legged friend in the snow.
This time of year can be disheartening for walking our dogs. Looking outside and seeing two feet of snow doesn’t always motivate us to give them the exercise they need. But, regardless of the weather, it is important that we get them outside for some fresh air and energy exertion. Here are my dog-walking tips, culled from many a blustery cold outing, that’ll help you stay warm and safe when the sidewalks are at their slipperiest.
- Keep an eye on the temperature: if it’s freezing out, keep your walks short. Don’t put you or your dog in a situation where the cold could affect your health. It’s better to do a few quick walks than one long one when it’s below freezing.
- Try to walk where there isn’t heavy salt on the ground. It’s not good for the pup’s paws.
- If your dog is a puller, teach them a few commands to make the walk easier. He needs to wait before leaving the house and crossing the street. This will keep him from dragging you wherever he wants to go.
- Layer up! It’s easier to take a layer off, than to get half a mile down the road wishing you had more clothes on. When I go outside in to the wintery tundra, I look like the little boy from A Christmas Story (not the one with his tongue stuck on the pole) and I’m okay with that unfashionable look.
- Wear good boots. Traction is important when trudging through the slush. YakTrax are a great accessory to invest in if you have a large dog who likes to pull. These bad boys are little snowshoes that you attach to the bottom of your feet to help keep you upright.
- Eyes up! When walking your dog, keep your eyes up and watch where you’re going. If you lean forward and look at the ground, your center of gravity is off and you’re more likely to fall and slip. If you look up and lean back, you’ll be more stable.
- If your dog has short hair, get them a jacket. Some dogs can stay outside all day without issue, but if they tend to get cold easily, do them a favor and bundle them up too.
- Booties: these can be helpful if your dog dislikes ice and salt on his paws. It does take some training – most dogs will look like they’re walking on lava when you first put them on. It’s okay to laugh, I always do. But let them roam around the house with them on until they adjust.
- Paw Balm: if booties won’t work, then there’s a paw wax you can apply to their paws before walks to seal them so they don’t get irritated and crack.
- Harnesses/Gentle Leaders: front clip harnesses and head collars are great to wear when walking in the winter. When wearing a harness or gentle leader, they make it difficult for the dog to pull, and you’ll find the walk more enjoyable.
The best way to get around the dread of winter dog walking is to be consistent. If you’re worried about falling, practice inside the house before taking to the streets. Spend a few minutes playing fetch before going outside – this will wear your dog out a bit, making them less likely to tug. Just keep your head up (and covered), and you’ll forget about the cold in no time (well, maybe not, but cheer up – spring is just around the corner)!
Rachel Leavy lives in Rochester, New York with her dog, Maria, and her gecko, Nigel. She has loved animals all her life, and has owned her own dog training and walking company for five years. When she’s not playing with puppies, she can usually be found writing short stories, riding horses or out at a play.