Keeping your pups safe and happy when the weather is uncooperative can be a challenge. We've compiled some great tips to make sure everyone stays cozy and busy this winter!
Keeping them warm
- Jackets/Coats. There are tons of styles available in stores and online. If you use a harness with your dog, make sure the one you purchase has a slit in the back to connect your leash. The warmest jackets have a fleece liner, and a waterproof or water resistant outer shell. Most are sized by the dog's body length, so make sure you take an accurate measurement of your dog before ordering online.
- Booties. Several of our fosters swear by the booties that kind of look like balloons pulled up over the dog's feet. They're waterproof, stretch to fit, and generally inexpensive. There are others on our crew who prefer the booties that you slip on and then velcro around the dog's ankle. No matter what the human's personal preference is, it's really about what your pup will tolerate.
- Paw Wax. Some of us (myself included) have given up the bootie battle. My dogs just won't have it. A good paw wax can help protect their feet from snow and salt. Even dogs that will wear booties can benefit, as the cold itself can cause drying and cracking to their paws.
- Watch the weather. Use common sense. Dogs' exposed skin (noses, inside of ears, toes, bellies on dogs with really short fur) can get frostbite as quickly as our own. When it's really cold, or the windchill is crazy, make potty trips as quick as possible, and keep playtime indoors.
Keeping them busy indoors
One of the hardest things for dogs in winter is burning off that excess energy. Most of us don't have huge open areas in our homes where our dogs can get the zoomies out. Finding other creative ways to use that energy and keep them busy is key.
- Field trips. Take them to pet stores, and other dog friendly businesses. The sights, smells and socialization are great for your dog's confidence and happiness.
- Car rides. If it's too cold out to spend an extended period outdoors, but not too cold for some out-the-window sniffing, go for a slow drive through the park, or a neighborhood that you're dog isn't familiar with, with the heat up, and the windows down.
- Puzzle toys. The market for these kinds of toys has really improved the last few years. They make your dog work for a treat or their meal, which not only teaches them patience, but the mental exercise can burn off energy as well as a walk! There are also lots of tutorials online on how to make some puzzle activities yourself, if you're the DIY type. Sometimes something as simple as a Kong or ice cube tray stuffed with yogurt, canned dog food, low sodium chicken broth, mashed sweet potatoes, or any other dog friendly mushy or liquid stuff and frozen can keep your dog busy and content for quite a while. (Just make sure any foods used in enrichment activities are taken into your dog's daily calorie count - you don't want to accidentally pack on excess winter weight!)
- Training exercises. If you've been slacking on some of the less used exercises (how long do most of us really need our dog to "stay" when we're not in the same room, anyway?) winter is a great time to get back on track. Many common commands trigger physical movements from your dog that when done in quick succession can be great exercise. In addition, the patience and concentration your dog needs to follow along with your commands provides more of that mental stimulation that your pup needs and craves. If you really want to take this to another level, sign up for a group class, agility class, or tricks class. You and your pup will have fun and learn together!
- Indoor play groups. This is another need that is fortunately getting more attention than several years ago. Many doggie day care businesses offer open play time. A couple of doggy swim centers have opened in the Milwaukee area recently.
It's amazing what creative ideas some people have come up with to keep their pups happy and fulfilled. Many of our fosters and volunteers belong to a Canine Enrichment group on Facebook where people share their ideas on how they keep their dogs content year round. You can find that group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/canineenrichment/