There is no bad weather; just bad choices in clothing. And as you can see from the picture above, I’m dressed for the cold. True, I would rather choose a Columbia skiwear outfit and picture myself looking like an adorable ski bunny instead of a flipped-out ninja, but warm and toasty is the goal.
Our campers, for the most part, love the cold, snow, and sliding on the ice. Winter has not put our day camp runs to Prairie Wolf on hold; when the temperatures drop to the single digits, we weather up and head out. We do take extra precautions, though—and you should too.
A few tips for weatherproofing your pups:
Cold is not an issue for most dogs. They don’t watch the news, and they don’t have minds that chatter endlessly about how cold they will be. While it’s true that older dogs may prefer lying by the fire, most young dogs are ready to rumble when you are.
Coats. Most pups have perfectly fine fur dog coats. Commercial dog coats are marketing ploys fueled by guilt. Rascal (my Parson’s Terrier) has six coats, and my mother’s sweet Trinket has a fur in every color. Buy one that makes you happy and your pup will love it. Really.
Boots. They’re awkward to put on, easy to lose, and most dogs pawsitively hate them. However, the ills of cold water and salt sometimes make them an evil necessity. If you do buy them, make sure they fit. Check that the strap is not too tight; the boot should be snug so that it doesn’t slip off but not so tight that it constricts the paw.
Balloon boots are inexpensive and work reasonably well. If they made Uggs for dogs, Rascal would own a pair in in every color to match each coat. One of us should be winter fashionable.
Paw protection. I spray Pam cooking spray on my beagles’ sensitive paws, and it keeps the snow and ice from sticking to them. I am sure this is not an approved use of Pam, but it works for us. It is easy to apply and isn’t messy. Vaseline works as well (I use it at places like Prairie Wolf to protect sensitive paws), but it’s a lot messier for home use. Musher’s Secret is a commercial product a lot of people swear by. I haven’t used it.
Cold-weather grooming. Keep the hair between the paw pads short so that it is even with the pad. (beard trimmer with the shortest plastic guard equipped works well) Trim the hair around the paws especially if they have a lot of feathering to make sure none of the hair comes into contact with the ground. This will help prevent ice balls from forming between and around the paw pads which can be painful. Keeping the nails trimmed is important year-round but even more so in the winter because long nails force the paw to splay out and make it more likely that snow and ice will accumulate between the paw pads.
I apply the Pam or vaseline just before we head out to play. After we are done, I wipe everyone paws with a warm washcloth to remove snow, ice and ice melt. Any chapped spots are soothed with vaseline. When we are at the park, I do paw checks frequently.
Salt and De-icers. Try to keep your pup away from roads and sidewalks that have been heavily treated with salt and chemical de-icers.. Immediately after a walk, wash your dog’s paws with warm water to prevent them from ingesting any salt or chemicals that may be on their paws. While outdoors, do not let your dog eat slush or drink from puddles near heavily treated roads and sidewalks. We risk limb and crushes to protect our pups and are mostly salt-free at camp. Prairie Wolf is completely salt free.
Good sense. Yep, we have some, despite our forges into the frozen tundra. Keep moving. Our pups never stop running and playing, and we keep moving along with them. Check your pup’s ears. If they are icy to the touch, it’s time to pack up and head home. We usually limit our time at the park to under two hours on severely cold days, even if everyone is having a great time. Like Mama always says, quit while you are ahead. Wind chill matters—not the wind chill on the news, but the wind chill outside. It’s easy to monitor; simply put, you’ll get a lot colder a lot quicker if the wind is blowing. Take a snack to eat for when you get back in the car; we are always starved and so are our pups. Biscuits for the pup, and nuts, fruit and brownies for us. Lots of brownies.
The worst part of heading out for our winter adventure with our pups is thinking about how cold it is outside. What motivates me is our encouraging tail waggers that are ready and waiting, and my teen partner who has no patience for my whining. I step out of the warm car mumbling, and then I watch as my pups rush off with gay abandon. It takes me a minute to realize that I’m not cold and notice the winter wonderland that surrounds me. I smile at the expectant snow-covered face in front of me saying, Are you ready!? Let’s go! And off we trot through a fog of dog breath, and the crunch of ice and snow.
Now Go Out And Play!
Odd Loves Company,
If you are interested in staying inside whlist sipping hot chocolate and sending your pups outside with us. Camp Run A Pup