Dog’s Eye View: But baby, it’s cold outside.
January 5, 2017
These past several days, with large accumulations of snow and lowering temperatures, brought to mind my checklist for winter pet care. We've had it pretty easy until now. Mother Nature didn't ease us into this winter.
Through the years, I've had dogs with different fur coats and body types, ranging from whippets — which have hardly any fur — to Siberian Huskies — which have good natural winter coats — and everything in between. If you keep a cool house, some shorthaired or older dogs might need a housecoat. However, a well-made, warm winter dog coat can't be beat. I like the ones that have a chest and partial belly flap. Many dogs have sparse fur in this area.
Foot care is pretty high on the list. Interestingly, our own sled dogs needed to have their nails trimmed on a regular schedule during winter. They ran hundreds of miles on snow, and their nails looked like bear claws. If you think about it, when our pet dogs walk and run in non-snow months, their nails wear down a little on their own. To help prevent snow balling up in their feet, we used products designed to be rubbed on dogs' pads. Check out your pet supplier for this. Additionally, trimming a little of the extra fur around their pads can help.
If you have walked your dog in areas where salt or deicers have been used, rinse off their feet and dry them when you come inside. You might want to try booties for winter foot protection. Surprisingly, dogs adjust to these quite well. I have used the simple polar fleece booties that are easy to put on with Velcro around the leg. They can be tossed in the washer when they get dirty.
Some dogs get a little cabin fever in winter. They become restless and need some activity, both mental and physical, to stay content. There's help available in the form of interactive dog toys and puzzles that can be played with inside the house.
I'm a big fan of indoor hide and seek. Have one person hide in the house while another person holds the dog's collar. The hiding person calls the dog as the holder releases the collar. Encourage your dog while he's searching in order to help him find you, and when he does, have a party with him on the spot using lots of treats. Running up and down stairs makes this a fun workout for everyone. This is a great game for families and can easily include children.
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And, while we're staying in the house a bit more, why not take this time to teach your dog some tricks? Trick training is just as important as basic skills training. We humans seem to be more light-hearted when teaching tricks, and our dogs get to use their brains and stay sharp.
For small or medium-sized dogs, perhaps some indoor agility is in order. By rearranging chairs and using tables, you can teach your dog to go under chairs and around other furniture using food as a lure. A broom can be set between two chairs to create a jump. Get a hula-hoop, and teach your pal to jump through like a circus dog.
Check pet supply stores for interactive toys, games and puzzles in addition to websites such as dogwise.com. Check bookstores for trick training and dog agility training books.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.