January 2, 2024
As winter brings changing weather and more extreme conditions, our canine companions are just as eager to frolic in the great outdoors. However, the colder months bring unique challenges for dog owners when it comes to keeping pets active, from icy pavements to biting winds.
To ensure your furry friend stays healthy, happy, and warm throughout the winter season, there are certain things to know about walking your dog in winter. Remember that their comfort and safety should always be the top priorities. From protective gear to weather considerations, grooming, visibility and the appropriate clothes for yourself, there are plenty of tips you can arm yourself with.
In this guide to winter dog walking, we explore everything you need to know to make your outings safe, enjoyable, and memorable for both of you.
If you want to know what to bear in mind for walking a dog in winter, follow these top tips for a stress-free season.
Before heading out, check the forecast. Avoid walking in extreme conditions like heavy snowstorms, freezing rain, or extremely low temperatures. By staying informed about the weather, you can tailor your preparations for walking dogs in winter, while minimising potential risks associated with cold and unpredictable conditions.
Keep your dog’s fur well-groomed, brushing their coat regularly to remove loose hair and prevent matting, as matted fur won’t provide adequate insulation. However, avoid shaving your dog’s coat in winter, as their fur acts as a natural barrier against the cold.
Trim the hair around their paw pads to minimise ice buildup and irritation. Pay special attention to the spaces between their toes. Additionally, keep their nails trimmed to prevent slipping on icy surfaces.
Choose appropriate dog clothing for winter walks to keep your furry friend warm and protected. Short-haired or small breeds, in particular, may benefit from wearing a dog coat. Opt for a well-fitted, insulated coat that covers the chest and belly for added warmth. Ensure that the gear is water-resistant to prevent your dog from getting wet in snowy conditions. With shorter days, keep your dog on a lead to enhance visibility, especially during low-light conditions. Reflective elements are helpful, or attach a light to your dog’s collar.
Cold pavement and icy surfaces can harm your dog’s paws, so pay attention to your four-legged friend’s contact with the ground. Use dog boots or paw wax to protect them with extra insulation. Tailor the attire to your dog’s breed, size, and sensitivity to the cold, ensuring a snug fit for maximum comfort.
While enjoying winter dog walks, be vigilant for signs of discomfort to protect your canine companion’s wellbeing. Watch for shivering, lifting paws, or an attempt to head indoors, indicating the cold may be too intense. Monitor their behaviour closely, especially if they show signs of distress or appear lethargic.
Inspect their paws for ice build-up or irritation and adjust the duration and intensity of the walk based on your dog’s tolerance. By staying attuned to your dog’s cues and adjusting the outing as needed, you can make winter walks a positive and enjoyable experience for both of you.
Ensuring that your dog stays hydrated during winter walks is crucial because although it’s colder, dogs can still become dehydrated. Pack a portable water bowl and offer small sips frequently, especially after playing in the snow. You could bring a thermos with lukewarm water in, to prevent it from freezing.
Monitor your dog for signs of dehydration, like lethargy or dry gums. Just like in warmer months, maintaining proper hydration supports your dog’s overall health and energy levels during winter outings.
In winter, adjusting the timing of your dog walks is essential. Aim for walks during the warmer parts of the day to avoid extreme cold. With shorter daylight hours, plan outings when visibility is optimal. It’s good to schedule walks around midday if possible, when temperatures are milder.
Be flexible and attuned to weather changes; if a particularly cold front moves in, opt for shorter, more frequent walks.
There are a range of common queries people often have about walking dogs in winter. Here we answer a few of them.
There’s no definite safe temperature to walk a dog in winter. The tolerance to cold temperatures can vary among different dog breeds, sizes, and individual health conditions. However, as a general guideline, you should be cautious about walking your dog in temperatures below freezing, especially if it’s accompanied by wind chill. Use your dog’s behaviour as a guide. If they seem uncomfortable or start shivering, it’s too cold.
Dressing appropriately for winter dog walks is essential to ensure both you and your furry friend stay comfortable and safe in cold conditions. Here’s a guide on what to wear:
Layered clothing – Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Add an insulating layer to trap body heat, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against the elements.
Insulated gloves – Choose waterproof and insulated gloves to keep your hands warm and dry. Gloves with touchscreen compatibility are great if you need to use your phone during the walk.
Hat and scarf – Wear a snug hat that covers your ears and a scarf to protect your neck from the cold winds. This helps retain body heat.
Waterproof footwear – Opt for waterproof and insulated boots to keep your feet warm and dry. Make sure they have good traction to prevent slips on icy surfaces.
Thermal socks – Keep your feet warm with thermal socks. Moisture-wicking socks can also help keep your feet dry.
Reflective gear – In the winter, when daylight hours are shorter, you can wear reflective clothing or accessories, just like your dog. This is especially the case if you’re walking during dawn, dusk, or in low-light conditions.
Comfortable winter jacket – Choose a winter jacket that provides both warmth and flexibility. Look for features such as a hood, adjustable cuffs, and a high collar to shield your neck from the cold.
Snow pants or insulated leggings – If there’s deep snow or if it’s particularly cold, snow pants or insulated leggings will provide an extra layer of warmth.
In general, many dogs can enjoy walking in the snow and even find it exhilarating. However, there are some factors to bear in mind to ensure your dog’s wellbeing in snowy conditions.
Breed and coat type – Dogs with thick, double coats, like Siberian Huskies or Bernese Mountain Dogs, are often well-suited for colder climates. Breeds with short coats or hairless breeds may need extra protection.
Temperature sensitivity – Some dogs are more tolerant of cold temperatures than others. Monitor your dog for signs of discomfort, such as shivering or lifting their paws, and adjust the length of the walk accordingly.
Moisture management – Wet snow can contribute to your dog getting wet and cold quickly. Inspect their fur and paws regularly and dry them thoroughly after a snowy adventure.
Age and Health – Puppies, older dogs, and those with health issues may be more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Consult with your vet for advice on the best approach for your specific dog.
Length of walk – While brief walks in the snow are generally fine, be mindful of the duration, especially in very cold temperatures.
Watch for signs of hypothermia – Be vigilant for signs of hypothermia, including lethargy, weakness, and slowed movements. If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to get your dog indoors and warm them up immediately.
Avoid areas with excessive salt or ice melt – these can irritate your dog’s paws. After a walk, wipe their paws with a damp cloth to remove any residue.
If you’re taking people’s dogs out for regular exercise, it’s important to do everything you can to protect both of you, in case anything unexpected happens. Dog walking insurance is essential to protect professional dog walkers against potential liabilities. It covers injuries or property damage that may occur during walks, safeguarding both the walker and the pet owner. This insurance provides financial security and peace of mind, ensuring that unforeseen accidents or incidents don’t lead to financial strain for either party.
Protectivity’s dog walking insurance gives a range of cover options, including public liability with between £1 million to £10 million worth of cover, and key cover, with up to £10,000 for new keys, replacement locks, and other costs.
Read more about it and get a personalised quote online.
This blog has been created as general information and should not be taken as advice. Make sure you have the correct level of insurance for your requirements and always review policy documentation.