There’s much talk during the summer months about the importance of protecting your dog from the blazing sun and how to keep it from suffering the ill effects of heat stroke, dehydration or worse. However, it is equally important to keep your dog warm during the freezing winter months. Frostbite, hypothermia and even death are real dangers to your dog as the snow piles up and the mercury drops.
While many dogs with proper shelter can be safe in outside temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, puppies, smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outdoors when temperatures fall below 40 degrees. A shorthaired dog can quickly become chilled after leaving a warm house, so dress him in a sweater before heading outside. Older, arthritic dogs should not be left outdoors under any circumstances. Escort the older dog outside for toileting. If the yard has snow or ice, use a leash since he can easily slip and hurt himself. In all cases don’t leave your pet in a vehicle during cold weather. A car in winter is like a refrigerator, holding in the cold and possibly causing the dog to freeze to death.
If you have any concern, seek medical attention but you should watch for:
- Frostbite occurs when a dog’s ears, paws or tail get cold enough that ice crystals form in the tissue and causes damage. If you think your dog has frostbite, bring him into a warm area and soak the affected areas with warm water for about 20 minutes.
- Hypothermia, which occurs when the dog’s body temperature goes below normal as a result of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, is another very real danger during the cold winter months. Symptoms of hypothermia typically include shivering, lethargy, a low heart rate, slow breathing and unresponsiveness. If you notice any of these symptoms, warm the dog immediately.
- Nutritional needs. Like humans, a dog’s internal system works extra hard in the cold to maintain appropriate body temperatures. As such, he needs extra fuel to burn and generate heat. Also, remember to provide plenty of fresh drinking water and keep it from freezing. It is just as easy to get dehydrated in the winter as it is in the summer if proper amounts of water are not consumed.
All dogs need exercise, even when there is inclement weather or you just don’t feel like going outside.
- Obedience training is one great way to exercise your dog’s brain and tire them out mentally. He will need to concentrate on what you are asking him to do.
- Try playing some of these indoor games with your dog to keep him healthy and happy. In addition, playing with your dog, like training him, enhances the bond you share and helps him keep his focus on you!
- Call your dog to COME, put him in a SIT/STAY, and then move away from him. After a minute or so, call him to COME again, and repeat. Try to increase the distance you move away and the length of time you wait before calling your dog to you. This game is great for dogs with attention-seeking behaviors, as it teaches them to wait for your commands.
- Hide and Seek…This old standby is still loads of fun for you and your dog. Have your dog STAY in one room. Go into another room and hide. Call your dog. Try not to give away your location by laughing! Kids love to play this game with the family dog.
- Work For Your Dinner…Remember that dogs use about the same amount of energy when they are challenged mentally as physically! Treat-rewarding puzzles, such as the GameChanger by Bark Busters, Canine Genius connectable toys, or the Wobbler by KONG, make your dog work for his treats—or you can use kibble with the toys to feed your dog his entire meal.
The more you exercise your dog’s brain, the happier and calmer he will be. Dogs that are bored are more likely to get into trouble. A tired dog is a good dog.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.