Winter Myths and Safety Tips

Siberian Husky in snow - Winter Dog Training and Safety TipsCommon Myth Busters and Winter Care Tips

By Michele, L. Meyer

MYTH # 1 – My dog does not need winter foot protection.  There is pet specific paw balm you can apply to your dog’s paws before going outside if you have a hard time keeping boots on their paws. This will help protect their paws from the toxic chemicals like ground salt and ice melts that cause paw irritation and cracking.  You can find the balm here.

TIP:  Be sure to wipe your dog’s legs, belly, and paws thoroughly when they come inside including in between the toes and paw pads. Salt, antifreeze or other chemicals can be picked up while outdoors and can be ingested when licking their paws.

Antifreeze, even in very small amounts, can be fatal to animals. Try to clean up antifreeze spills on your driveway as soon as possible. A safer form of antifreeze is available – try using a propylene glycol-based antifreeze, it’s less toxic than ethylene glycol antifreeze.

MYTH #2 – My dog does not need a coat. Although this may be true for Nordic breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Malamutes because they have a double coat and are bred for extreme cold…this however, is not the case for the large majority of dogs. Even dogs with long fur should wear coats in extreme cold. Short haired dogs are even more vulnerable to the cold weather. Think of it like the hair on our head…we still need hats in the winter. Dogs get hypothermia and frostbite too. So be sure to dress your dog in proper winter attire and limit their time outside to just a few minutes at a time in extreme temperatures.

TIP:  Your pet should be kept on a leash when they are out in snow or ice, especially when it is snowing. More dogs are lost in the winter than any other season partly because the scents they use to find their way home can be covered up by the snow.

TIP:  Never leave your dog unattended outside in the winter unless they are safely secured from other wildlife such as coyotes which can be even more determined in the winter when there is less prey available. A four foot fence will not keep coyotes out if they are determined. Make sure there are no gaps under or between fencing where wildlife or your dog could get through.

TIP:  Small pets weighing less than 15 pounds are vulnerable to hawks and should never be left unattended outside even if you have a fully fenced yard.

TIP:  Before starting your car in the winter, remember to bang loudly on the hood because cats often sleep under the hoods of cars or on top of the wheels where it’s warm. Please keep your cats inside, especially in the winter months. Cats are easily injured or killed while outdoors and can freeze, get lost or stolen.

TIP:  Never leave your pet alone in the car.  Vehicles are like ovens in the summer and can be like freezers in the winter, holding in the cold and causing your pet to freeze to death.

Myth #3 – I need to wait for warm weather to train my dog.  We train where the behavior happens so if you need help with your dog behaving inside your home, then there is no need to wait for warmer weather… and the longer your dog practices those undesirable behaviors, the stronger they will be. Practice makes perfect!

Even if you need help with behavior outside, there may be foundational training that needs to start inside first where there is less distraction. We can also still train outside in the winter as long as it is not extreme cold and the ground is clear.

Training can help with specific winter behavior such as teaching your dog to let you wipe their paws…or teaching them to walk nicely on a leash so that you are not being dragged across slippery pavements.

Teaching our dogs a reliable “leave it” or “come” cue helps keep them safe because you can quickly call them away from danger like antifreeze, a patch of ice, or a foreign object in the snow.

Learn about all the benefits of our dog training programs.