Too cold for walkies? Expert advises whether to walk your dog in the snow - and safety hazards to be aware of

walk your dog
Maggie Davies

Animal behaviourist Carolyn Menteith advises dog owners how to judge whether it’s too cold to walk your pooch outside, as temperatures drop and snow falls across the UK.

With snowfall hitting parts of the UK and temperatures delving below freezing, many dog owners will be wondering if they can walk their pooches in the snow. While the cold weather can be a danger to pups, walkers can take their pets outside if they follow the rules to stay safe.

Carolyn Menteith, animal behaviourist at tails.com, shares her advice on how to tell if it’s too cold outside. Carolyn told the Mirror : “First of all, it depends on your dog’s breed or type.

Some breeds have thick coats with an undercoat and enough body fat to easily cope with lower temperatures – and many even love the cold far more than a summer’s day.

“As a quick rule of thumb, look at the country where your dog’s breed (or breeds) was originally developed, and what they were bred to do there.”

For example, a Siberian husky was bred to pull sleds through the harshest snows, so even the coldest UK winter will be no challenge for them. Whereas a tiny Italian greyhound, bred to be ladies’ companions in the Mediterranean, will experience shock at the slightest hint of chill outside.

“Our most popular breeds in the UK come from the gundog group, and while they might not be quite as extreme as the sled dogs, they were still mostly bred in harsh climates and were developed to work whatever the weather,” Carolyn said.

So a snowy day in Swindon isn’t going to cause them any problems whatsoever – in fact they probably won’t even notice!” Generally, temperatures below -4°C are too cold for short-haired dogs, while long-coated dogs can be walked in lower temperatures down to -9°C.

Carolyn advises considering your dog’s age, as very young and very old pooches do not cope well with extreme temperatures. “A bigger consideration than temperature is ice. Icy pavements can cause considerable damage to your dog’s paw pads and can also be hard to walk on,” Carolyn explained.

Expert tips for walking in winter:

1. Stay wary
Watch out for snow drifts, ice, grit, antifreeze, frozen ponds and other winter hazards. Always avoid gritted surfaces as they contain chemicals harmful to dogs. Remember when crossing roads or walking around traffic that drivers might not be able to stop as quickly as usual.

2. Be seen
Use a reflective dog collar, harness and lead when walking in the snow. Wear reflective clothing yourself so you can be seen.

3. Try indoor enrichment
If you have an older dog or young puppy, replace their daily walks on the below-freezing days with indoor games, training, enrichment and problem solving tasks.

4. Dry off immediately
When you come home, dry your dog off with a towel, as lying around wet is when they are most likely to get chilled. If it has been snowing, check their paws for balls of snow between their toes. Carolyn added: “The reality is that in most cases, our dogs are far happier to go out on cold winter days than we are – and
often we use them as an excuse not to just put a few more layers on and enjoy a wintery walk.”

8 of the best dog breeds for cold weather

Brrr! If you live in a cold climate and are considering adopting a dog, you’ll want to make sure the pup you bring home will be able to handle freezing temperatures. Not sure where to start your search for cold weather dogs? Here are 8 of the best dog breeds for cold weather.

1. Bernese Mountain Dog
Looking for a walking partner? The Bernese mountain dog is a large breed that’s sturdy on their paws and is known to be able to carry heavy loads. While they don’t have a high need for exercise, they do have endurance – so they can keep you company on long, cold walks.

2. German Shepherd
Known as a highly intelligent watchdog, the German shepherd, with its double coat, is one of the best dog breeds for cold weather. Make sure to train them at an early age and have them exercise and socialise regularly so that they don’t develop overprotective or aggressive behaviours.

3. Great Pyrenees
This double-coated dog has a long outer coat and does well living in both rural and suburban areas. They’re independent, hard workers and have been used as sheepherders and sled dogs. Give the loyal and friendly Great Pyrenees something to do, and they’ll keep you great company in a cold climate.

4. Keeshond
If you’re looking to welcome a small to medium size dog into your household, look no further than a well-behaved and affectionate keeshond. With warm layers of fur, you won’t have to worry about their insulation in the cold weather. Just keep in mind that if the temperatures spike in the summer, a keeshond can easily get overheated.

5. Newfoundland
Newfoundlands are bred to be cold weather dogs. Gina DiNardo, vice president of the American Kennel Club, told Outside, “the Newfoundland has a heavy coat that protected it from the icy waters it was originally bred to work in, making it ideal for colder weather.” Newfoundlands also have large paws that help to steady them on ice and snow. Just be sure to trim their nails regularly, which need more attention due to carrying a large load!

6. Saint Bernard
This massive dog makes for a great family pet. Saint Bernards are known for their devotion to their humans, especially children. For years, Saint Bernards were used to help find trapped humans after avalanches. You might not use your Saint Bernard as a search and rescue dog, but you can be sure they’ll be comfortable in winter weather.

7. Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu, originally from Japan, are muscular and sturdy, which helps them enjoy romping in the snow. Shibas have a double coat of thick fur that helps protect them from the elements while ensuring they stay warm.

8. Siberian Husky
Bred to be sled dogs, the Siberian husky is biologically conditioned to survive – even thrive – in freezing temperatures. They’re worker dogs with dense undercoats and plush, thick fur to keep their bodies warm in cold weather. Just be aware that in warmer temperatures, a husky may dig holes in your yard to lie in and cool themselves off.

(Article source: Various)

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