Walking A Dog In Winter – 9 Things You Should Know


Walking your dog in the winter

Winter is a difficult time of year for many of us and it goes without saying that we tend to avoid going out more often than in the summer months. One of the most important aspects of having a dog is that they rely on the outdoors to keep their bodies and mind stimulated throughout the winter months.

  1. Walking A Dog In The Dark
  2. Walking A Dog In Cold Weather 
  3. Avoiding Cold Water In The Winter
  4. Can I Walk My Dog In The Snow
  5. Can I Walk My Dog In Snow
  6. Can My Dog Eat Snow
  7. Walking A Dog In The Rain
  8. Cleaning Your Dog After A Walk
  9. Walking A DogIn Windy Weather

Walking your dog in the winter is difficult and there are things you need to be thinking about before taking your dog out. Here is our helpful guide to walking your dog in the winter. Hopefully, this should give the insight and motivation to brave the cold and give you and your dog a better outdoors experience.

1. Walking A Dog In The Dark

One thing with the winter months that I personally hate is the darker evenings. Less time to get things done which can often be a pain as your dog will need walking also. So many of us live busy lives and we want to give our furry friends the attention they deserve. That’s why we have to make the most of every hour of the day, even if its dark outside.

Some people love walking their dog in the evening, myself included. Darkness often discourages people from going out so if it’s a nice quiet walk you’re looking for then winter evenings certainly won’t disappoint. There are some things you should remember when walking your dog at night.

  • Stay in well-lit areas
  • Ensure you and your dog can be seen – consider light-up collars and reflective clothing
  • Stick to pavements and pathways
  • Don’t wear headphones during night walking
  • Take a torch and mobile phone for emergencies

Are Dogs Afraid Of The Dark?

Most dogs feel afraid of the dark despite their ability to see much more clearly in the dark than humans. Dogs tend to be more defensive creatures and therefore always on their guard, and so their fear comes from a decreased awareness of what’s going on around them.

As an example, I have found that my dog may occasionally bark at noises outside when it’s dark, this is despite being in a fully lit house with us by his side. As this never happens during daylight hours, this may show that he has an increased defensiveness during the darker hours of the day.

If you want a more detailed view of night-time walking then check out our helpful guide to walking your dog at night.

2. Walking A Dog In Cold Weather

When is it too cold to walk your dog?

There is no definitive answer for this as it depends on your own circumstances, a general rule would be when the temperature approaches 0 Degrees Celsius. Larger dogs with big fur coats are going to be able to withstand the cold a lot better than smaller short-haired dogs. You need to consider what type of dog you have, how long you plan to be out, and what they are going to be walking on.

How To Tell If A Dog Is Cold 

To tell if a dog is cold lookout for these key indicators.

  1. Shivering 
  2. Droopy Eyes
  3. Dropped Posture
  4. Tail Between Legs 
  5. Consistent Stopping  
  6. Whining 
  7. Extremities Are Cold To Touch (Ears and Legs)
  8. Evidence of Sore Paws  
  9. Slowing Down 
  10. Trying To Stay Close To You 
  11. Curling Up 

These are the main things to be looking out for, in order to tell if your dog is cold. Try to assess the scenario you are in, if your feeling cold despite having winter gear on, then your dog is most likely feeling the same. f you suspect your dog is cold take them into some shelter as soon as you can and give them a cuddle, whilst gently rubbing their fur to warm them up. Next time its that cold you can wrap your pooch up in some good quality winter gear.

Do Dogs Need Coats In Winter?

Most dogs have enough fur to protect themselves from low temperatures. Once the temperature gets to the freezing point it can be a good idea to think about putting a coat on your dog. Short-haired dogs should be provided with a winter coat sooner than long-haired breeds as they cannot sustain the cold as much. If It feels cold for you then consider a coat for your dog. 

Smaller dogs may also benefit from a winter coat as they are not as tough as larger breeds. Again, you should consider how long your dog is going to be out in the cold, although don’t let them go into the water with them on as they can be quite restrictive. The nature of the breed can also make a huge difference, for example, dogs such as huskies are built for cold weather and coats may be of no use to them.

3. Avoiding Cold Water In Winter

The water can be a highly attractive place for a dog. My golden retriever is obsessed with water, he can sniff it out a mile away. If the temperature is particularly low going into the water is not often the best idea for dogs. As you can imagine most dogs don’t think about this fact before jumping straight into the muddiest, smelliest, and coldest river they can find. You should avoid letting them go into any water in cold weather as dogs can suffer from hypothermia just like humans can.

The difference with dogs is they generally don’t understand what is going on with their body as it slows down, this leads to a higher chance of drowning. If you feel you have to let your dog into the water make sure you bring a warm towel to wrap them up in afterward and get them running about. In temperatures below 0 Degrees Celsius its best to just be safe and keep them out.

Although double-coated breeds can sustain the cold for longer periods of time it is still advisable that swims of no more than 10 minutes should be undertaken in temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius. Outdoor Swim recommends this time limit for wild swimmers and so should be taken as a guide for double-coated breeds. Its also going to be mostly guesswork as I don’t assume many owners will be taking their thermometers down to the river or lake. The most important thing to do is be careful and know your breed well before deciding whether to let them in or not. If you want to learn more about how long a dog should swim in cold water for, then check out our article HERE.

4. Can I Walk My Dog In The Snow

Paw Protection

A dog’s paws are vital for walking and being one of their most important assets it should be a top priority to protect them during the winter. Many people believe that a dog’s paws are tough and unbreakable, made for any terrain. Well despite a dog’s paws being tougher than our own feet they still have their limits and taking good care of them during the winter is essential.

Snow is probably one of the worst culprits for damaging paws, it’s especially common when a dog’s paws have been exposed for long periods of time. Dog shoes are a great idea for protecting your dogs’ feet however sometimes dogs can find them extremely uncomfortable, especially if they plan on doing lots of running about.

Some Scenarios You May Discover Walking A Dog In Snow

There can be a few aspects of walking in the snow, that can cause damage, equally, there are also some solutions that can help reduce the damage caused to your dogs’ paws by snow.

Snow Balls  

If you have a particularly fluffy pooch then you may find lots of hair in between their “digital pads”, these are their toes. Snow can get caught up in these places and begin freezing the hair together, this is usually referred to as snowballs and can become quite uncomfortable for your dog and cause injury to their paws. Protection from this type of snow build-up is difficult but aside from dog booties, you can trim the hair between their toes to reduce the build-up of snow.

Ice And Chemicals

Taking a towel with you on any snowy dog walk can be a good idea as it allows you to wipe off any excess snow. It can also be a good idea to have some warm water at home for when you get back, this way you can wash off any chemicals and melt any ice that gets stuck to your dog’s paws.

Along with snowy weather comes ice and to protect our roads from ice build-up we use salt and de-icing chemicals. Well, you can imagine some of those chemicals get onto the pavements and our dogs end up walking on them. The use of salts can become very painful for dogs and any chemicals that are consumed by your dog can cause harm to their organs. Paws can crack in the winter months and with harsh chemicals seeping into them you may soon find your pup limping around.

Paw wax can help by producing a temporary barrier between chemicals and your dogs’ paws. Wax is not a sure-fire solution and you should always check to see if the council is using pet-friendly chemicals or if your unsure dog booties are the way to go.

walking a dog in winter

5. Can My Dog Eat Snow?

Yes, your dog can eat snow in its purest form. Dangers become apparent when chemicals and other foreign material start appearing unnoticed within it. Snow can also cause your dog to vomit as a reaction from consuming so much air and water into their stomachs. Read more below.

This is a question that comes up every winter, but it’s one that just requires some common sense. So, snow is just frozen water, which is perfectly fine for them to eat, this means the simple answer is yes, your dog can eat snow. However, if you begin to think about what snow on the ground could contain, it begins to become a bit more of an issue. Snow which has been on the ground could have numerous chemicals hidden beneath it, these chemicals pose a serious threat to your pooch.

The other issue with dogs is that their stomachs tend to be sensitive to snow when your dog consumes large amounts whilst running about. My suggestion is to regulate what snow they are eating, so you’re probably going to be OK if you walking your dog through rural woodland, just make sure they don’t eat too much.

6. Walking A Dog In The Rain

Walking a dog in the rain is something every owner should consider doing whilst their dog is a puppy. Daily exercise is vital for a dog’s physical health and mental stimulation. With so many days in the year when it could be raining, you don’t want to have a dog that refuses to walk in the rain as this will only leave you with a hyperactive dog indoors. 

With winter comes more rain which then causes more mud. When walking your dog in wet weather it becomes apparent the correct walking gear can make the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. Apart from this, you need to be prepared to clean your dog after a walk, otherwise, you may be stuck with a muddy car and consequently a muddy home. Cleaning a dog after a walk doesn’t have to be a chore and there are some things that can make it easier. Check out our article on “How To Clean A Dog After A Walk” and our other article based around keeping your house free from mud, “How To Keep Your House clean With Muddy Dogs – An Owners Guide”

muddy dog

It’s not just yourself who may need the correct walking gear, it’s your dog too. OK, so naturally your dog’s not really going to care about getting wet and muddy, but just remember you’re the one who has to clean them after their walk. Just like with the snow, dog boots can help to prevent muddy paws and anything on the ground from hurting your pup. Doggy raincoats are less popular than dog boots, however with the increasing number of pampered dogs out there, they are suddenly an accessory in demand. Dog raincoats can keep your dog dry during wet weather and they are especially good if you have just had them groomed.

7. Cleaning Your Dog After A Walk

As you are now probably aware, your dog is going to get muddy in the winter. There is no doubt that if you are taking them on rural walks they will get covered and sometimes even city walks can leave you with a muddy pooch.

Cleaning your dog straight after a walk can save you the hassle of cleaning them at home. Just think, you could reduce the amount of mud in your car and in your house, saving yourself the trouble of cleaning not just your dog but everything else they touch.

These days there are so many gadgets for different tasks and something that this has helped with enormously is cleaning your dog post walkies. Here’s a quick list of items that may help you in cleaning your dog after a muddy walk. For a more detailed summary see our article on how to clean your dog after a walk.

Portable Dog Shower – There are a few options when it comes to portable dog showers. Generally speaking, a bottle of water will sometimes suffice, until you have the chance to clean your dog at home. The cheapest option is to attach what is known as a bottle shower cap, this item will allow you to turn the contents of any ordinary screw-top water bottle into a portable shower.

As a more effective but also more expensive option, you can try using an electronic portable shower. These connect to your car and give a more powerful clean. There are a few good brands including Karcher, It best to shop around to make sure you get the best deal.

Microfibre Towel – Drying can be really helpful for preventing the spread of mud and especially helpful for reducing bad smells. Although you may not get rid of your dog’s smelly odor completely its good to dry them well. The towel I would recommend using should be made from a microfibre material. Microfibre towels are super absorbent and don’t seem to smell as much as ordinary towels after drying.

Dog Car Boot Cover – Every dog owner will know that owning a dog comes with a considerable amount of mess. This could include toys on the floor, hair, and mud. Using a car boot protector or car seat protector is vital if you want your car to stay dirt free. Modern covers allow you to attach them high up on the sidewalls of your boot protecting the whole boot from your dogs.

Dog wipes – If your dog is not in need of a full wash then dog wipes can help clean up any dirty patches on your dog. They are especially good for smaller dogs with less body coverage.

8. Walking In Windy Weather

This sort of weather can often be tricky, but choosing to go for a walk during windy weather can often be the wrong one. There are often areas to stay away from when walking your dog in windy weather but it entirely depends on the conditions and the location of your walk.

Staying away from wooded areas should be fairly obvious especially if the wind is particularly strong. Falling branches can often cause serious injury and sometimes be fatal so care should be taken. Walking in the woods during strong windy conditions is not recommended and you should choose your route carefully if you feel you have to go near any wooded areas.

Coastal areas are often a fun choice but with strong winds come ferocious waves. All it takes is for your dog to go too close to the sea and a sudden wave can take them out. Cliff edges also pose another threat as the wind shoots across them taking anything in its path. When walking on the coast during windy weather its best to have your dog on a lead, that way you can control them. A harness is another great accessory as you get more control over your dog, with added handles to pull them out of any awkward situation.

9. Indoor Activities For Your Dog

By now you know how brutal the winter can be in preventing you from getting out and about with your dog. In the event you can’t take your dog out due to the winter weather, there are lots of activities you can try at home. Here are just some of the activities you could try to keep your dog active indoors during the winter months.

Scavenger Hunt – Dogs have an amazing sense of smell so hiding small treats around the kitchen or house can be a great way to keep them mentally stimulated. Don’t give them too many treats though as their exercise in the winter is usually reduced in comparison to the warmer months.

Running up and down the stairs – This is a tricky one as there are mixed messages when it comes to letting your dog climb the stairs. There is no doubt about it climbing up and down a staircase is great exercise for a dog. However, it should not be done as a regular activity due to it causing joint and hip problems, especially in larger breeds.

Homemade obstacle course – If you have the time, an obstacle course can be great fun to build and even more fun for your dog to try out. Use cardboard for tunnels and set some treats down as a reward for completing each section.

Dog puzzles – These are popular gadgets that allow your dog to solve a problem and unlock a hidden treat from inside. There are all sorts of different ones and they provide great mental stimulation.

Indoor dog park/day-care – Dog parks are less common in the UK than they are around the rest of the world. However, if you happen to have one nearby, they can provide a great opportunity for your dog to run about or socialize with other dogs. If you don’t have an indoor play park nearby doggy day-care can give your dog the opportunity to socialize and play with other dogs too.

Treadmill – This is something that not everyone has but if you are lucky enough to own a treadmill then it’s a good idea to share it with your pooch. On those days you can’t get out and about, a treadmill can walk your dog for you and allow you to see how far they have gone. Dogs enjoy treadmills more than you may think, but it will depend on how your dog feels about them. Try a steady speed to start with and don’t try to make them run as they could end up hurting themselves.

Hopefully, this guide has given you a good idea about how to walk your dog in the winter. Its important to be safe and walk with some common sense, most dogs will tell you if they are not keen on something or if their paws are hurting. Remember to watch your dog’s body language and don’t try to over walk them during these colder months. If its too cold, slippery, wet, or windy for you then its probably too much for your pooch as well.

Winter has its positive sides giving you and your dog a real outdoor experience, just remember to enjoy your walks and be safe. If you enjoyed this guide check out our website where you can find lots of other helpful articles on walking your dog.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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