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Welcome to east coast winters. They begin soon after September and don’t stop until April Showers become a thing. Living with the different seasons means there is a change in your dog’s routine and just like humans it affects us in many ways.
I own large furry Golden Retrievers and they do not care about my dislike for icy cold evenings during January or February. They need to be outside getting exercise as much during those months as they do in the spring and summer months. This is a challenge as pet owners that can make or break your dog’s overall physical and mental health. If your dog is used to running and exploring while exercising outdoors during the warm months then they will need it during the cold months. It comes with the territory when owning a large dog or the many other types of high energy pups that come into our lives.
Living in the eastern part of the USA means we lose daylight shortly after 5pm beginning in November and lasting through March. This does not mean that my dog walks or training ends during the dark days of winter. In fact, I tend to train inside a couple times a day to help with the boredom and my dogs love it! Even if its a short 5 minute session they perk right up when they know it’s time for them to work. Adding extra training time to a busy work or home schedule may be challenging but your dog is counting on this to become the new routine when stuck inside. A fun training tip that I will share is when settling in to watch TV at the end of the day, when a commercial comes on you can use that time to train. There will be 2-3 minutes of training time built in during the breaks that will keep your dogs happy and motivated. It is important that you plan ahead and have your training gear and treats already near you. The best thing you can do to help your handling skills is to be prepared!
Early To Rise
Since we do lose the daylight so early in our day another idea is to just set that alarm 30 minutes sooner each morning and get up and outside. I understand you are probably rolling your eyes but if you took a vote your dog would agree that this new use of the morning hours is a great idea! One great way to double down on an early morning walk would be to add some training into it. Load yourself with high value treats and look for good choices that your dog makes while walking. Reward your dog when they look up at you or when the leash is loose and they are staying near your body as you walk. I always try to stay connected to what they are doing and give them a little feedback to help keep them on track. Plus, there is nothing like a 20 min brinks walk to start the day!
Ice and Salt
It can become dangerous during the winter months while out on a walk, even with the slightest bit of pulling by your dog. Any ground that may be snow covered or with a thin coating of ice can lead to a painful tumble. I tend to walk with both hands on the leash when needing extra support on slippery grounds. I’m right handed so my left hand is a little over two feet from my dog’s collar and my right hand is holding the end of the leash. This is much safer in case you happen to look away and your pup decides to take off running!
Something that should not be overlooked is the bottom of your dogs paws if they have been out on the snow and ice for an extended period of time. Planning ahead can make a difference in their comfort. I always make sure that the hair in between their pads is trimmed so snow does not build up which can make walking very uncomfortable for them. I also bring a towel with me in case I need to wipe off excess dirt or water that they may have walked through. Of course keeping your walks shorter in duration is not a bad idea during the worst of winter days.
Ice melts are used in most cold weather areas and may become a problem for your pet if you are not careful. The melts that are used may or may not be “pet safe” and you really do not have any way of knowing this while out on a walk. Pay attention if your dog stops to lick or dig snow away from his paws. If ingested there will be a good chance your pup will have a stomach issue or even minor vomiting in the worst case. When back home, be sure they have fresh water to drink and give a quick rinse of their paws with warm water to flush away and debris. Let’s not forget an extra biscuit for them as you both settle in for a well deserved rest.
For a long stretch of each year living with dogs on the east coast means we must give our pets extra attention when the seasons change.