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Walking dog in a foggy wood

Walking your dog in icy conditions


Walking on ice...

As the song goes – “Baby, it’s cold outside”. But even in the depths of winter, when the temperature hovers around freezing, your dog’s still raring to go. So we layer up with woollens and thermals, lace up our boots, and get out there, daring the weather to do its worst.

But when there’s ice on the ground, it can be hazardous both for you and your dog. Here we take a look at the possible dangers and discover how you and your pooch can take cold weather in your stride.

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Cool coats for wintry walks

Some breeds laugh in the face of winter, because they’re warmly cocooned in luxurious thick coats designed to cope with freezing temperatures. They include all the double-coated dogs who have a dense undercoat of short hairs combined with a longer top coat.

As you might expect, the Akita, Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog and Newfoundland are blessed with coats that are the equivalent of a 20 tog duvet. However, the double-coated doggy tribe also includes the Pomeranian, a breed that’s related to sled dogs, the Shih Tzu and the Scottish Terrier.

At the other extreme are short-haired or hairless breeds that are better adapted to a summer stroll in Provence than a sleigh ride in the snow. They include Chihuahuas, Whippets, Greyhounds, Boxers, Dachshunds and Vizslas. Oddly enough, Great Danes, although massive, are also lacking on the insulation front.

All these shivery souls can benefit from wearing a winter coat to help protect them from chilly weather. Just make sure the coat is a good fit: not too tight, with room for your dog to stretch and move easily.

Pulled over by your pooch

Lady getting pulled over by her dog

Winter mornings can be stunning, as the low sunlight catches the bare branches of the trees and glints on the ice that frosts the fields and hedgerows. But those early morning walks can also be hazardous.

If it’s icy underfoot and your pooch suddenly pulls on the lead, you can quickly come down to earth with a painful bump. Prevent this from happening by:

  • Training your dog to walk nicely on the lead. This RSPCA article has some good tips, including rewarding your dog for walking on a loose lead and stopping still the moment they start pulling.
  • Considering putting a headcollar or body harness on your dog to give you more control over their movement.

You could also wear anti-slip ice grippers that fit over the soles of your shoes or boots to give you extra traction in icy conditions.

Does your dog have total recall?

Dog coming back to owner

In icy weather, it’s more important than ever that your dog comes back the instant that they’re called. If they head off towards a frozen lake for instance, you have to be sure that they’ll return the moment you call their name.

Taking care of your dog’s stiff joints

When it’s cold and icy outside, our joints have a tendency to stiffen up, and the same is true for our furry friends. What’s worse, the less they move, the less they’re able to move. Keeping active is vital to help your dog’s joints stay supple and to make sure they get the exercise they need during the winter months.

As well as going for regular walks, look after your dog’s joints in winter by:

  • Making sure their bed is in a warm, cosy place. Don’t put them out in a cold conservatory on a hard, tiled floor.
  • Keeping your dog’s weight under control. Additional weight adds pressure to your dog’s joints, which can make them more prone to stiffness.
  • Considering a joint supplement such as YuMOVE Joint Care which is designed to help soothe stiff joints and support mobility.

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When it’s cold outside, pay extra attention to your dog’s paws. Trim the hair on their paws to reduce their chances of slipping on ice and to make it less likely that ice, snow and grit will get into the nooks and crannies and cause issues.

Dogs like Siberian Huskies have specially adapted pads that are water and frost-resistant. However, your average dog’s paws are highly sensitive to the cold. In extreme cases, they can even develop frostbite.

If your dog lifts their paws, stops walking or whines, it could be a sign that their paws are too cold. Prevent this by avoiding taking your dog for long walks in the snow or by getting them a cute pair of dog boots for the ultimate in paw protection.

The nitty gritty

Recently gritted surfaces can be harmful to dogs. Grit can get stuck in their paws, causing soreness, redness or cracking. In addition, the salt and chemicals in grit may cause further irritation and chemicals can be dangerous if your dog licks their paws.

One way to deal with this is to invest in a Paw Plunger. This ingenious device is a small plastic tub with a handle, lined with soft bristles. You fill it up with lukewarm water, plunge in your dog’s paws, one at a time, and the bristles gently remove all the grit and mud from your mucky pup’s paws.

As well as removing any nasty chemicals from your dog’s paws, it means that it’s now safe for your pup to walk on any clean, pale-coloured carpets.

Dangers in the dark

During the winter months, you’re more likely to find yourself taking your dog out for walks in the dark. Have a look at our guide for a range of tips on keeping safe during walks in winter.

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