Tips For Walking Dogs In The Snow

For those of us living in places where winter means snow, walking dogs outside becomes a big challenge. Snow presents a new obstacle that makes things very difficult for dogs. As a professional dog walker in Chicago, I experienced the downsides of the Midwest winter firsthand, and I’ve come up with some tips for dog owners and their pups to stay safe in the snow.

Layers For Humans And Dogs

A small dog wears a thick coat with a hood against a white background.

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Obviously, you’ll want to bundle up to head outside in the snow, but just because your dog has a fur coat provided by nature doesn’t mean extra layers aren’t needed. Different dog breeds have different tolerance for snow, and it’s important to do your research before you let your pup play in it. If you are unsure of your dog’s breed, it’s best to just play it safe. There are plenty of coats available for dogs of any breed that are easy to put on and take off. Just make sure you take measurements and get one that fits.

Shovel And Use Pet Safe Ice Melt

A man shovels snow off of the walkway in front of a building.

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Before you head out, make things easier on you and your pup. Even though they’re on four legs, they can still slip and fall on icy stairs or walkways just like you. Shovel the area outside your door and get a pet safe ice melt to prevent ice from forming. It’s important NOT to use salt, as salt creates a reaction with ice that burns paws. These burns can be fairly severe if the salt isn’t removed right away, and at the very least, it will cause your pup a lot of discomfort.

Foot, Hand, And Paw Protection

A Jack Russell Terrier walks in the snow with a coat and boots.

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Speaking of salt, paw protection is extremely important to keep dogs safe from the salt used to melt ice on streets and sidewalks. Dog boots or paw wax will keep paw pads from suffering. Dogs need protection from salt even more than from snow and ice, though it’s important to guard against frostbite, too. This goes for humans, as well. Your hands may get numb while holding a leash, and you may not realize how much danger you are in. Always wear gloves and boots that guard against snow packing in around your feet or getting them wet.

Plenty Of Water

A Labrador Retriever sips water from a silver bowl.

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Winter is a dry time of year, and dehydration can sneak up on people and dogs. People don’t realize how much they sweat in winter gear, and dogs tend to pant and breathe heavily, giving off a lot of moisture. You and your dog should drink plenty of water before and after walks. Eating snow is not a good option, as snow can hide waste and bacteria, and it’s usually salty due to all of the ice melt that is spread around streets. It will also lower your dog’s core temperature. Your dog could end up sick or even more dehydrated.

Watch Out For Waste

A grey, curly-haired dog on a leash buries his face in the snow.

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As I mentioned, snow can hide waste easily. Many dog owners do not act responsibly during the winter and think that dog waste will just dissolve with the snow. It doesn’t. In fact, as the snow melts, all of that waste becomes very apparent, and it’s a huge public health concern, as it attracts rodents and spreads bacteria and disease. Always pick up after your dog, even in the snow, but keep an eye out for other waste piles. They can come as a surprise, and if your dog makes contact with them, it is very easy to catch another dog’s sickness.

Towels By The Door

A woman dries off a small Bulldog with an orange towel.

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Not only will a towel by the door keep your home from being a muddy mess, it will help you get your dog dry and warm. It will also allow you to knock off some of the snow that gets caught in your pup’s fur, which can keep your dog cool for a lot longer after the walk. Snow caught in fur can also cause your dog to lick, chew, or scratch to remove the snow and irritate the skin that may already be dry from the weather. Try to remove as much of it as possible before letting your dog run around inside.

What other tips do you have for walking your dog in the snow? Let us know in the comments below!