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7 Ways to Prepare for Winter with Dogs

7 Ways to Prepare for Winter with Dogs

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Some of our friends have been posting photos of winter with dogs filled with glistening snow and bundled up layers that simultaneously make me feel cold and sweaty for weeks. For others, like us, the worst of the winter season has barely started. Winter in Vancouver can mean rain, rain, and more rain…and then it gives way, briefly if we’re lucky, to snow before returning to our regular schedule of rain forever.

Rain jackets are an essential survival tool in a BC winter. Find all our rainy day tips for dog lovers here –> Rainy Day Dogs and here –> Tricks to Prevent Wet Dog Smell From taking Over Your Home

Seriously, y’all. I haven’t even bought gloves yet. Yesterday I went outside in capris. However, the cold weather is coming and it would nice, FOR FREAKING ONCE, if I was prepared instead of facing the ire of a grumpy puggle who hates being chilly and can’t imagine why I haven’t invested in a climate controlled bubble for his winter walking pleasure.

We turned to Nicole from DogVills, who lives in a chillier climate than me for some advice on how to get your dog-friendly home winter ready. 

Between below-freezing temps, winter snowstorms that seem to be in competition with themselves, and slippery, sharp ice, there’s a lot to think about when preparing for winter with your dog! We want to make sure we do everything possible to keep them safe, happy, and warm until the cold season passes!

How to Prepare for Winter with Your Dog

1. Know your breed & how much they can withstand

Before you can prepare your dog for winter, you have to know just how much they can withstand. Some breeds, like the Husky or Malamute, are actually happier in cold weather. Others, though, like my short-haired Pharaoh Hound, aren’t really designed to handle anything below freezing. 

Mauja and Kiska, two of the great pyrenees from It’s Dog or Nothing love the snow and are frankly, offended AF that Kelsie asks them to come inside. 

While you’re doing breed research, I also suggest taking a moment to look up your local laws. For example, Pennsylvania recently enacted alaw making it a felony to leave dogs outside in cold weather for too long.

2. Keep them inside as much as possible

Keeping your dogs inside as much as possible on freezing days can go a long way to keeping them safe, but I know it’s easier said than done in many cases. Many pet parents work outside the home, and even those who don’t still need to leave the house to buy groceries and other essentials, right?

If it’s below zero, he’s not coming out of his blanket cocoon, so don’t even ask. #PuggleStruggle

This is where planning comes in handy. If you need to leave your dog for long hours and a crate just isn’t feasible, consider hiring a temporary pet sitter. Just planning to run to the store? Time it so that someone else can stay home with the dogs.

Kol’s Note: If you have a breed that lives for the winter weather, plan for regular grooming breaks to ensure they don’t get balled up with snow or soaked to the skin.

3. Buy them a good winter coat

Gretel from You Did What With Your Weiner may be small, but she is mighty! This little go getter climbs snowy mountains and stays warm in her winter coat.

A good winter coat is perfect for those times when your dog needs to go outdoors in the cold (their bladders don’t stop working just because it’s cold out, after all). I highly suggest getting one before it gets too cold out and “practicing” with it, both to help your dog get used to it and to make sure you can put it on quickly when your pup needs to go out right away.

4. Invest in a heated dog bed

If your dog spends any time in an outdoor dog house heated dog beds are an absolute must. However, they aren’t just for the outside! Think about this: heat rises, yet your dogs’ beds are on the floor. If you have a particularly drafty house like I do, a heated dog bed really helps keep yourpups comfy and cozy.

I am dead of cute. Polly Pocket from ChiPets is cozy as woof on her heating pad! Always supervise your pets when using electronics and unplug them when not in use. 

Worried that they’ll give you an astronomical heating bill? While it’s true that anything that throws off heat can raise your bill, there are many energy-efficient heated beds out there.

Kol’s Note: On the flip side, if your dog is one of those “I’d rather be in the snow” breeds, cooling mats are a good way to help keep them indoors on ugly days. 

My fav bad boys from My Brown Newfies would rather be outside, but when they *have to* come into the warm cozy house, cooling mats make them a little happier.

5. Keep those toes and pads clean

It never woofing failed: it would snow 5 days before this fluffy beast got his winter groom. A good haircut can dramatically cut down on discomfort in the snow for some fluffy dogs.

If you walk your dog out on a sidewalk or street, it’s important to clean them off when you get back home to get rid of any chemical or salt residue. Salt can burn paw pads, can be laced with dangerous chemicals you don’t want them licking and can leave nasty stains on your carpet and furniture. 

Kol’s Note: Our DIY dog grooming and paw wipes are perfect for this purpose. We always keep a batch by the door in bad weather. 

Likewise, if your dog has hairy feet, keep that hair trimmed in between their toes to prevent the formation of ice balls. Both of my girls now have relatively short toe hair, but I remember when I had my German Shepherd, she would get all sorts of ice stuck between her toes. 

6.  Know Your Poisons

Luna from Beagles and Bargains is like “this is not food and I don’t know why I had to pose with it?”

Winter staple chemical,  antifreeze, is one of the greatest dangers to your pet during the winter months, but there are other potential poisons to worry about too. You know all those traditional holiday plants, like mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias? They are all dangerous for our furry friends! Even the lilies and daffodils make the dangerous plants list.

This plant is normally kept out of Kol’s reach and he has ZERO interest in plants anyway, but not all dogs will leave your plants alone. err on the side of caution.

Before you bring any plant into your home, just do a quick search using the plant name + “safe for dogs.” For example, “are lilies safe for dogs?”  (Spoiler alert: Hard no, they’re not.) When in doubt, either skip it or stick to artificial plants. They’ve come a long way and most look like the real thing.

7. Use common sense

I know this is, well, common sense, but it bears repeating! If you think it’s too cold outside for your dog, err on the side of caution. When the temperatures are going to plummet below freezing, keep your dog indoors. If you’re worried that the ice is too thin, the snow is too deep, the sleet a little too sharp…trust your judgment. You can never be too safe when it comes to protecting your canine companion!

Koly the Grinch: “We must stop winter from coming, BUT HOW?”

Winter can be a lot of fun when you have a dog. My girls love playing in the snow and chasing my son on a sled! You don’t have to hibernate until spring, just use a little extra caution! That way, everyone – furry friends included – can enjoy the season!

How do you help keep your dogs happy and safe during the winter?

About the Author:Nicole is a writer and editor at DogVills.com, a site dedicated to helping both new and seasoned dog parents lead the very best lives possible with their canine companions. She’s a pet parent to two dogs- a Pharaoh Hound named Freya & a Pit/Lab mix named Mocha.

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