Winter Dog Walking

Getting your walking boots on in the depths of winter dog walking, walking in the rain, wind and sometimes snow, is not very appealing, but that is part and parcel of dog ownership. Dogs still need to be exercised whatever the weather, but it can be said that even dogs are not always so enthusiastic either! However, you can learn to love your winter walks with the right preparation and kit and still make it fun.

It is best to try and stay within well lit areas and wide pavements and when walking in built up areas, keep your dog walking by your side away from the traffic. When walking in the dark, always make sure you can be seen. Safety comes above fashion, so invest in some high-visability gear for yourself and your dog. Hi-Vis collars and also dog jackets will make sure he is seen by motorists and by you, especially if he is off lead. Always carry a torch and a head torch is a really good idea to keep your hands free. Walking with friends is a good too, but if you are alone make sure you walk in familiar surroundings and consider carrying a personal alarm for added safety.

Make sure you wrap up warm. Investing in a good quality Gortex waterproof jacket is well worth the cost and will last you years. Add a good pair of waterproof walking boots and/or wellingtons with thermal socks and you are good to go. Don’t forget a waterproof cap or hat, gloves and scarf. Consider getting your dog different types of dog coats for all occasions and always keep a spare in the car. The fleece dog coat and jumpers are ideal for putting on your dog after a cold, wet walk for the journey home or during the walk as they are weatherproof, lightweight and warm. Avoid having your dog’s coat clipped too short during the winter months, but having the hair around his feet trimmed will help prevent the build up of ice balls between the pads and toes.

Mud and rain are unavoidable during the winter, so make sure your car and house is mud and wet dog friendly. Dirt trapper house and car mats will absorb mud and moisture and help keep your home and car clean. Another good tip is to recycle old towels and keep handy in the car or by the door to dry your dog off and wipe paws before he goes inside. High absorbent dog towels are also useful to keep in the car for drying off after very wet walks or a hose down to remove mud when you get home.

Always check the weather before you plan your walk so you are prepared for the conditions and if it does start to snow heavily, always recall your dog and put on the lead as snow can affect his sense of smell and could make him feel a bit disorientated.

Does this sound off putting?

Well, popular areas that are normally jam packed during the summer, tend to be a lot quieter during the winter and you cannot beat a frosty winter walk with a touch of winter sun – perfect for some photography. But do beware of flood water as there is often a strong current, so keep your dog under control.

Winter walking often means you have to keep your dog on the lead, but that doesn’t have to be boring. Let him sniff – smells are very important and using the nose keeps your dog’s brain busy. So give him time to check out the wee-mails. Changing your usual route helps or walking the other way round to make it a bit more interesting. Take a toy with you and stop regularly for a game. Balls are great. Also if your dog needs to top up his training, this is the best time to do it, so make the most of your time together and brush up on basic commands like sitting at the roadside before you cross the road.

Another consideration is that walking through mud and snow means that you have to lift your legs higher and use more energy and that means more calories are burnt! So, when you get home after an invigorating walk, there is nothing better than a well earnt mug of hot chocolate and a favourite treat for your dog and a soft and snuggly blanket and dog bed!

Lead Walking

Most dog owners just want to have relaxed and enjoyable walks with their dog. It is not necessary to achieve competition level of heel walking with the dog glued to the leg, but a relaxed happy dog walking at your side on a loose lead. It’s okay to have them a little in front or behind as long as the lead is loose.

Are you being pulled around by your dog when you lead walk? It’s not much fun and a very common problem and probably one of the hardest behaviours to correct, especially if you have a high energy dog. Once you start lead training you will need to be consistent and it may take some time to achieve, so patience is a virtue!

Dogs pull because :

  • their comfortable pace is at a trot and we are not walking fast enough
  • the environment is stimulating
  • they pull and they get to sniff where they want, get to the park for play, greet another dog etc., so they are getting rewarded for pulling
  • because we allow them to

When there is tension on the lead the dog will instinctively pull to make sure he is going to get where he wants to go.

There are many harnesses and head collars on the market which are designed to stop your dog pulling. In my opinion, the only best method to stop pulling is to train your dog not to pull on the lead using a flat lead and a traditional collar. Using other equipment may be a quick fix solution, but as soon as you take the harness or collar off, your dog will instinctively pull again. The use of choke and prong collars or anything that inflicts pain on the dog, is absolutely not an option.

There are many methods to use in training, but the best solution is to stop giving your dog the opportunity to move forward as soon as he pulls on the lead. Start the walk with your dog walking nicely at your side, as soon as he pulls you immediately stop in your tracks and give a command for him to come back to you. Wait for him to return and ask him to sit and give a treat as a reward for returning. Start off again and repeat. You may not get far from the house on the first few occasions, but do persevere as this will work. As your dog progresses and manages to stay at your side for a few trots, reward with a treat whilst walking and praise him. If it is worth his/her while walking at your side they will do it! Gradually you can decrease the food treats but always praise and talk to your dog so he/her knows they’re pleasing you.

Remember to always walk purposefully and at a good pace which is also good exercise for you!

Dogs sleep a lot – some around 14 hours a day, so they will spend a great deal of time in their dog bed, or on your sofa! Dogs will sleep practically anywhere, but they do need a space to call their own where they can get some quiet time. They do love comfort and often will choose a raised location to rest which is probably instinctive and it gives them the opportunity to keep an eye on what is going on and provides protection off the floor away from any drafts. A raised dog bed is ideal for working dogs that are kennelled outside; include vet bed or blankets for extra comfort.

Some dogs will stretch out and others will curl up; whichever way your dog sleeps they do like to have support for their back so it is a good idea to position his bed against a wall or buy a bed with a back support.

A good quality padded donut bed is a good option as it provides a pillow and some back support in one.

Does your dog prefer your bed to his? You may like to consider why? A bed that is flat and flimsy and without comfort is not going to attract your dog to spend time in it if there is a much cosier option in the lounge or bedroom. Doesn’t your dog deserve the best! You may like to consider a bespoke wooden bed with a mattress which will match your quality furniture. To get value for money, it is always best to spend as much as you can afford on a quality dog bed which will last, rather than have to replace cheaper versions every few months.

Your dog’s bed should be chosen bearing in mind your dog’s breed, size, age and how he likes to sleep. It should be large enough for him to move around in it easily. Older dogs often have arthritis and stiff joints so an orthopaedic dog mattress is a great choice for the elderly dog which is fully sprung and will support the joints just like your own bed! The orthopaedic mattress Paws Plus One can supply is top quality, pocket sprung and made with natural products to allow the mattress to breathe. It will provide your dog comfort and support for many years.