Did you say go for a walk?!
Sure, let’s go! Just have to grab the leash, and a jacket, and a hat, probably a pair of gloves too…
It’s true, walking your dog in winter is not as simple as when the weather is, well… not winter. However, it’s still important that our dogs get exercise in the winter — and let’s face it, nature calls no matter the weather.
So we’re here to share some helpful tips for walking dogs in winter.
To jump to something specific, check out our table of contents:
- Walking (even) In a Winter Wonderland
- Tips for Walking In Winter
- When Is It Too Cold to Walk Your Dog?
- Alternatives to Outdoor Walking
As is the case with your two-legged family members, your dog has needs that need to be met every day.
Aside from survival needs like food, water, and a good environment to do their doggy business, your dog also needs love, quality time, training, and exercise.
Your dog’s daily walk is a key tool for meeting a lot of those needs, especially for training and exercise. Many common behavioral issues arise from dogs not having enough mental and physical stimulation throughout the day — daily walks are just the trick to turn that around.
Walks are also a great opportunity for training. Dogs can work on skills like listening to directional cues and learning to not pull on the leash. If that’s something you’re working on with your pup, you’ll find this video useful! 👇
Bonus content: Keep your pup well-behaved on their leash and beyond (while having fun!) with these 21 Impulse Control Games!
That’s why it’s so important to not let walks fall by the wayside during the winter.
Yes, the decreased daylight and dipping temperatures can make your daily stroll a little less enjoyable for you, but it’s still important for your dog’s health and happiness.
Just as there are precautions to take during hot summer months, there are certain things you do have to keep in mind when walking your dog during winter.
You already know the basic steps to take for yourself as you head out into the cold: zip up your heavy coat, put on a hat, slip on your gloves, etc. Staying warm is your top priority for yourself — is it for your dog, too?
Yes, your dog has a built-in fur coat that does provide protection during walks and time outside in the yard. However, the winter weather can be brutal and can even put your dog in danger.
To keep your dog happy and safe during winter walks, keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid having your dog outdoors for long periods of time, especially if the temperature is near or below freezing. Try to break outdoor time into segments shorter than 30 minutes when possible.
- Walk your dog during the warmest parts of the day if possible, mainly in the late morning or early afternoon.
- Make sure your dog is completely dry from bathing or grooming before taking them outside in the cold.
- Dress them in a sweater or coat, especially for short-hair dogs.
- Use booties, balms, or waxes for a protective layer on paws.
- Make sure your yard and walkways are cleared of ice to keep dogs from slipping or getting cut — just make sure you use pup-friendly ice melt.
The biggest tip we can give here is to trust your dog. Some breeds are designed to thrive in the snow and cold, and really enjoy rolling around in a ball of white fluff. If that’s your dog, let them enjoy it!
Other dogs, however, aren’t so thrilled by the cold. If your dog is displaying unsettled body language or doesn’t want to spend a second longer than it takes to do their business outside, maybe long walks in the cold aren’t for them.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, your dog’s cold tolerance can vary depending on their coat type, body fat, activity level, breed, and overall health.
After all, some dogs were bred for outdoor work in all conditions, while others are meant more for… companionship (which is still as noble as any other doggy job!).
In general, larger and longer-haired dogs tend to have a better tolerance for the cold while smaller and shorter-hair breeds don’t. However, each individual dog is different, so be careful about making generalizations.
The important thing to keep in mind when walking your dog in the winter is understanding their limits. It’s time to bring your dog inside and limit time spent outdoors if you notice any of the following:
- Fur and skin that is cold to the touch
- Difficulty breathing or walking
- Shivering and trembling followed by no shivering
- Seeming weak, dazed, or unresponsive to stimuli
If the weather is in the single digits or there’s a snowstorm outside, long walks likely won’t be possible. It’s important to make sure your dog is getting their dose of daily physical and mental exercise though, to keep them happy and healthy.
The winter is a great time to introduce indoor exercise methods through toys, games and learning new skills. It’s a great way to exercise your pup’s body and brain without having to spend time in the cold.
Here are a few alternatives to outdoor walking 👇
- Training fun new tricks like roll over, spin, and other ‘fun’ tricks
- Snuffle mats & foraging boxes
- Hide and seek with tasty treats
- Indoor obstacle course
- Puzzle feeders and other brain games
Check out this article for more on how to exercise your dog indoors — there are 21 ideas, so you’re sure to find something that’s suitable for you and your pup!
Recap of Walking Dog in Winter
The cold winter weather can certainly change your dog’s walking routine — but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
You can use this time of year to sport some of the latest winter fashion for your pup, or even learn some fun new indoor games.
Or, you can supplement any chilly outdoor time with lots of warm snuggling and belly rubs… no, our dogs did not tell us to write that 😉
How do you handle the cold weather with your dog? Tell us in the comments below!