The first is obvious. Winter easily evokes thoughts of snuggling up with sweaters, blankets, and a cup of hot cocoa. We stay indoors, wear warm snuggly clothes, and cuddle. It’s the best part of winter. But our pups tend to suffer: they get less exercise and less stimulation. That’s where novelty comes in. Taking a new class, teaching a new trick, and providing new puzzle toys can help work your dogs mind and body when it’s chilly outside and they aren’t getting walked as often. Below are a few of my favorite ways to keep dogs both cozy and stimulated during these cold months.
1. Keep your Canine Cozy with a custom-sized jacket
For many shorthaired breeds, a high quality coat is necessary. I’ve never been into dressing up my dog in costumes and fancy duds, but I have no problem putting Grayson in a coat to stop his shivering. He actually looks cute in his winter wear, but I had a really hard time finding something that fit his mixed breed body type. Then I found Voyagers K9 Apparel on Etsy. This company makes fantastic stuff – and they make it to fit your breed. Voyagers specializes in breed specific clothing and will even make you a custom coat if you have a mutt who has non-standard proportions. For the first time, Grayson has something that fits him and he doesn’t shiver outside! The clothing goes on very easily and I’m still able to use a front attaching harness with the coat. I bought him a tummy warmer and winter coat. He wears the belly warmer when its higher than 40degrees, and if it drops below that we layer the coat on top. Voyagers also makes rain coats and booties. While I didn’t order the booties the reviews are top notch.
2. Make sure they stay warm with a specially made dog heat pad
The SnuggleSafe heating pad is my next favorite winter item both for cats and dogs. Pop this non-toxic bite-resistant plate into the microwave and give your pet twelve hours of warmth. Great for puppies, arthritic pets, and breeds like Chihuahuas that can never get quite warm enough.
If your dog doesn’t mind the cold and still enjoys long walks and hikes, Mushers Paw Protection can save their paw pads. Mushers is a wax salve that should be rubbed into your pets paws between once and three times/week (depending on your outdoor activity level). It is absorbed into your dogs pads and protects them from salt, ice, and snowballing between the pads while allowing for the pads to still sweat. Because it is absorbed into your dogs pads it won’t stain your clothes or carpet. Mushers also helps protect against hot pavement and sand in the warmer months!
4. Clean the slush of their feet
Not crazy about booties or salves? Pick up the Paw Plunger – http://www.pawplunger.com/ This little gadget is the easiest way to clean paws of salt and icy balls stuck between your dogs pads. (You should also take your pet to the groomer to trim the hair between his pads. When the hair is removed snow is less likely to get uncomfortably packed between the footpads.) I don’t know what we would have done without a paw plunger with two Irish Setters in Buffalo, NY. It’s a winter miracle.
5. Occupy them with indoor activities
Have you been meaning to take your pup to obedience classes but just haven’t gotten around to it? Maybe your pup is well behaved but has tons of energy. Ever thought of taking beginners agility class just for fun? How about a nose work class or tricks class? Winter is the best time of year to take classes. Classes are indoors where it’s warm and tire our dogs in a way nothing else will. Both you and your dog will learn a new skill, be better behaved, and have something new to practice at home! You can also give them enriching things to do without venturing outside at all. For instance, you can use Work-to-Eat toys to make dinnertime more challenging for your pup. That might mean investing in a Nina Ottoson toy (Amos is enjoying her “treat maze” toy above). Or, maybe you’ve been eyeing or get a new Kong, Busy Buddy, or other food dispensing toy at your local pet store. There’s no easier way to give your dog mental stimulation. You have to feed your dog anyway, right?
6. Make short walks more challenging
I know you’re still walking your dog, but when it’s freezing out, your walks are probably shorter. If you have a healthy dog, strap a backpack on him to make his walk is more physically challenging. Slowly add weights to the pack to make your dog stronger and his workouts harder. Start with just the backpack and add more weight every week. You can fill the backpack with traditional weights, bottles of water, or other things you might need him to carry. By the time summer comes around Fido will be ready to carry all your essentials for you on a hike.