Dog Ownership Basics – 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips

I've been thinking...Having a dog in your life is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding relationships you can get into. Whether you are having a great day or a horrible one, your little furry buddy is there wagging his tail as soon as you glance in his direction and he asks for very little in return for his unconditional love and affection. I strongly believe that the decision to bring home a pet should not be taken lightly. It will require a lot of your time, money and attention; specially in the first several months. There will be obligatory vet visits, house breaking, obedience training as well as deciding on the type of diet to feed him, time for walks, time for burning energy, grooming and so much more. The best advice I can give you is to lay it all out on paper before you actually bring a dog home and then, once you feel confident in your plan, go for it; you will not regret it. One thing you should definitely consider in that plan is how you will take care of your pal during the harsh winter months. Dogs, just like human are very sensitive to extreme temperatures. Some are a little more adapted then others but that does not mean they should be left to fend for themselves in freezing or scorching conditions. Taking on the responsibility of owning a pet of any kind should mean you will provide them with the best possible food, water, shelter, care and attention but unfortunately, that is not always true and many animals pay the price for our negligence. Provided I have not totally scared you off yet, I'm here to offer a little help when it comes to owning a pet if you live in an area where it seems like half of the year is covered in snow. Here is my list of 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips.

Tip number one is to know your pet's limits. Just like us, dog's love to play in the snow. Some breeds are better adapted to it than others and depending on the coat, fat stores, size and activity level of your dog, you should be able to determine when it is time for him to come back inside. Now, I know some of you think dog's do not belong in the house and you are entitled to your opinion but I believe it is my responsibility as a pet owner to provide him with the best possible shelter and that means he gets the same treatment I do...Inside the house. So look for the signs you would recognize in yourself; shivering, tucking paws, change in demeanor and do not leave him out in the cold any longer than you have to.

Tip number two Is to check their paws. One of the most exposed areas on your dog is his paws. In extreme cold weather or if you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers it is imperative that you protect their paws and check them often for cracks or injuries. There are several options available to protect their paws and we find the best to be a good paw wax. It can be used as prevention as well as treatment and is very easy to make at home using some very simple ingredients.  A simple google search will give you hundreds of recipes.  As an alternative, you might prefer to use commercial dog boots but be careful, most of the low-cost options will only frustrate you as your canine friend kicks them off within the first two minutes.  Look for ones that have zippered fronts and velcro strap up top, they tend to have less stretch and are usually a lot harder to catapult into the abyss...

Tip number three is to dress him up. Ok, probably not the most popular one in the list, especially for us guys but if you want to extend the length of time your pooch can stay out in the cold; dress him up. Long haired or thick coated dogs such as malamutes don't necessarily need it but if your dog has really short hair like our boxer mix does, you need to dress him up to go outside. There as so many commercial options available now it's almost as bad as shopping for kids but that is not the point. Anything you can use to keep your dog's body heat from escaping too quickly would work. You could use old sweat shirts or, if you are handy with a sewing machine, design and create your own; there is no limit to make sure your buddy stays warm.

Tip number four is to wipe down. If you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers, your dog's feet, legs and belly will pick up some of these chemicals that can potentially be harmful and even toxic to him. When you come back from a walk or an activity where he may have come in contact with these chemicals make sure to thoroughly wipe down these areas using a damp cloth. You will be avoiding expensive vet bills as well as keeping your sanity by eliminating all kinds of dirt and sand from your floors.

Finally, tip number five is to avoid ice. One of the most common pet injuries during winter times is broken nails or bones due to bad slips on ice. As I said before, dogs love to play in the snow and sometimes that means running over a patch of ice. If you can prevent them from doing that by carefully selecting the area where they can let loose and play then you will be one step closer to having a successful outing with your buddy.

Overall, pet safety comes down to one thing; caring. If you care for your animal you will do everything in your power to make sure he is safe and comfortable. I hope these 5 Cold Weather Safety Tips help you on your journey to pet ownership and invite you to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Thanks for Reading!