Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Dog Jack Russell in winter clothes on a walk in the snowdrifts in winter

Regular walks can have a big impact on your dog’s overall health and yours too. Not only do they help burn energy and improve the bond you have with your pet, they also help improve cardiovascular health and assist with weight management. 

That being said, it's hard to get outside during the winter especially when the conditions aren't ideal, plus it can be dangerous for your dog. Follow these tips to ensure your pet stays warm and healthy this winter.

Before your walk

It’s important to know your pet’s limitations. Depending on their breed and health, they may not be able to handle the cold as well as other dogs. For example, Alaskan Malamutes were bred for cold weather, whereas Greyhounds have a much harder time adjusting to the cold.

To ensure your winter walk is enjoyable, both you and your dog should be dressed appropriately. Layered clothing, gloves and a hat will help keep you warm, while a good pair of winter boots will help provide traction on ice. Depending on the breed, your dog may appreciate a jacket too and could benefit from a pair of booties if they are willing to keep them on. If your dog won’t tolerate boots but has irritated paws, consider using paw wax to help protect their feet from the elements.

In addition to dressing warm, it’s important to ensure your dog has identification tags on their collar and their microchip information is up-to-date. Dogs can easily get lost in the snow as scents become less recognizable in the cold. If your dog gets separated from you, the proper identification will help ensure you’re reunited.

During your walk

Depending on how cold it is, you may not be able to stay outside for as long as you usually do. Ten to twenty minutes per day is generally long enough when walking in freezing temperatures. Try playing a game with your dog to make the most of the short amount of time you have – most dogs love chasing snowballs! When playing, keep away from frozen ponds and lakes. If your dog breaks through the ice, it can be difficult for them to escape and very dangerous for you to try to save them.

If your pet is acting out of sorts by whining or shivering, it’s time to head home. If your dog has spent a lot of time outside and is showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite such as lethargy or swollen ears or feet, contact your veterinarian.

When you return home

When you return home, wipe your dog’s paws, legs and belly with a damp cloth to remove any salt that may be on their fur. For more furry dogs, remove any snow clumps with warm water. In addition, check your dog’s paws regularly after your walk to ensure their paw pads aren’t cracked or bleeding.

It may take a little more preparation, but winter walks can be fun for you and your dog. For more information on staying safe this winter, read our winter safety article.