Walking your dog is part and parcel of being a responsible dog owner, and at this time of the year a walk in the park when the leaves are changing colour and crunching beneath your feet, can be really enjoyable, but before we know it, winter will be upon us and the walks on those crunchy leaves will turn into heading out sometimes when it is dark, and sometimes when there is ice and snow around. While we can still enjoy our walks with our canine companions, we may need to do some things a little differently to keep us safe while out and about. Here are 7 Tips for staying safe while walking a dog in winter.
Love your walk as much as your dog does
I’m not sure about you, but for me one of the reasons I wanted to get a dog in the first place was so that I could get out more, and get some fresh air and exercise, and I could think of nothing better than to have my dog along with me as my companion. There are so many amazing things you can do and places you can go when you have a dog. We will drive for hours to find a place where the dogs can have a good explore out in the countryside or on the beach somewhere. We really enjoy it and often plan day trips and weekends away doing things we know the dogs will love.
Saying that we are lucky to live in an area which although is in the suburbs of a city, we have some great parks and trails to walk along, so when the weather is too bad to go driving out we can still enjoy a good walk, the main thing when walking in the winter is to make sure you are staying safe and so is your dog, so I’ve put together a list of easy tips you can follow to make sure you and your dogs have a great time together safely.
1. Keep your dogs’ ID info up to date
This first tip is standard for whenever you leave the house with a dog, make sure they are wearing a collar, with an up to date ID tag attached. If, for whatever reason your dog ends up separated from you it will help others that may find them get them home to you. I never put my dogs’ name on an ID tag just my telephone number and my postcode, but you could add something like “I must be lost. Please call Mom”.(and then your number). This gives the person who has found your dog the information they need to get in touch with you but doesn’t provide them with any information like your dog’s name that makes it easier for them to be abducted. I personally don’t want someone to know my dogs’ names, as it could lead to my dogs thinking the stranger is a friend.
Also, if you have your dog micro-chipped, always keep the information up to date. So any change of address or phone number should be updated, this can easily be done online or by calling the company your pet is registered with.
2. Stay seen at all times
wear clothing that is visible in the dark, this time of the year when the mornings are staying darker for longer and the nights are getting darker earlier there is a very good chance that you will have to walk your dog in the dark. Always make yourself easily visible, especially if walking along roadsides. A car or bike may not see you and your dog until it’s too late and an accident could ensue, but by wearing either an item of clothing that is visible, I myself actually wear a fluorescent vest over my jacket, which I got for walking my rescue dogs that don’t like other dogs so it says give us some space on the back, something like that is great for walks in the dark, as not only does it make you visible to traffic but to other dog walkers too.
3. Make your dog visible too
You have made yourself visible, so you should also do the same for your dog, you can get fluorescent jackets for them too, but some dogs like my Alaskan Malamutes wouldn’t appreciate me putting a coat on them so you can also get fluorescent leads, collars, and harnesses, a lot of standard harnesses come with fluorescent strips or stitching on them too. Another thing that is popular now is led collars and accessories, I use these with my dogs, I attach them to the lead or harness and they have different settings so can have either constant light or flashing light at different speeds.
4. Always carry fresh water
Fresh drinking water for your dog, and you, although you may prefer a flask of hot tea or coffee. If, I am going on a long walk with my dog even in the winter I make sure I take them a bottle of fresh water to drink. A lot of places nowadays will put bowls out for dogs you see them outside shops and I actually even saw one outside the hospital when I went a few weeks ago with my dad. These are great and it’s brilliant that many places are doing this and thinking of our canine friends, but for me, I prefer to take my own drinks out with me for myself and dogs. My one dog is very fussy anyway and she would never dream of drink out of a communal bowl, but apart from that a bowl that may have been sitting there for hours could contain all kinds of bacteria, and me having to carry water around for my dogs is way less of a problem than a potential trip to the vets if my dog gets sick.
5. Invest in some snow grips
So when the weather gets really bad and you head out on your walk and it is been snowing or the place has been hit with an icy blast overnight, you may want to invest in some snow grips for your boots, they are relatively cheap but worth every penny as I have never once slipped over whilst walking any of my dogs since getting them. I think the thing I worry about most if I were to slip is not hurting myself but that I may lose grip of my dogs lead and they could get hurt on the road etc. snow grips just hook over the front and back of your boot super easy and you can get them from any outdoors type shop, and online.
6. Keep those towels handy
Always have a towel ready in the back of the car or for when you get home, I have tons of towels for my dogs. I have four dogs, so when they are back from a walk where we got caught in the rain, or it is a damp autumn morning or they have been playing in the snow, I would rather throw a few towels in the washing machine every day than have four damp smelly dogs making a beeline for the sofa.
7. Wash and check those paws
Check your dogs over after a walk, I always check my dogs over when we get back from walks, just to make sure they don’t have any debris like twigs or leaves in their fur, I also check their paws and between their toes, to make sure no stones or thorns, etc are present to cause them discomfort.
If, you have been out in the snow and ice make sure they do not have any frozen lumps stuck to their underbelly or in their paws. I also wash my dog’s paws if they have been out in the winter and the road gritters have been around because the rock salt they use can be toxic to dogs, so if they get it on their paws and then come home and start licking them it can cause them to get ill.
And the last tip is… enjoy your walk
These are just 7 simple tips that can make your walks so much more safe and enjoyable for you and your dogs. If you have any more to add to the list please feel free to comment below. Being a responsible owner and paying attention to the basics of dog care will not only keep you and your dog safe on your walks but will show your dogs just how much you love them.