Winter is coming!
As summer winds down, and the signs of fall are all around us, it is a great time to think about keeping your dog safe during those wintery walks. While I will gear this article toward guide dog users, this information is appropriate for anyone who loves to venture out and walk their dog in brisk weather. You may be thinking to yourself, but Ted, it was 90 degrees outside yesterday, why are you already talking about winter weather? It is never too early to get prepared for bad weather, and some of the things you do to prepare for cold weather can help you when the temps are toasty outside.
How hot is too hot? How cold is too cold?
First and foremost, do not consider this medical advice, and since all dogs (and people) are different take the information here as informational, and please understand that I highly recommend that you check with your veterinarian about your specific dog’s health before beginning a walking regiment or considering taking your dog outside in extreme temperatures. My guide dog Fauna is a 60 pound Black Labrador, and fits within the “average” and “medium” definitions set forth by her veterinarian. She is within a couple pounds of her ideal weight, and we walk and hike regularly for long periods of time. I have coordinated with Fauna’s Veterinarian and the medical staff at Guide Dogs for the Blind, where she was trained to determine that she has a safe operating temperature range between 32 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range she can walk safely, outside of this range however, precautions need to be observed. If the temperature is over 77F degrees, I always carry some water in a camel back backpack with water and a collapsible bowl for Fauna. I plan stops ahead of time at the halfway point where I offer water and the chance for her to relieve herself. When it is cold is where I tend to err on the side of caution.
Most healthy medium or large dogs can walk for 30-minutes if the temperature is above 20 degrees F. Smaller dogs should limit the walk to 15 or 20 minutes if temps are between 20 to 32 degrees F. If it’s below 0 degrees, no dog should be out for a walk.
Black Labs love to walk, and especially play in the snow. I have been told that Fauna is fine walking regularly without a coat in as low as 20F degrees. I’m not a big fan of walking in that cold of temperature, so I usually limit our outside times to 32 degrees and above when it is cold. I’m sure they are right, and she would be just fine, I just don’t like to be out when it is that cold.
If I am going to be outside when it is super warm or freezing cold I will usually put booties on Fauna to protect her feet. In the summer, it doesn’t take long for the asphalt to get over 100 degrees, and icy sidewalks are miserable to walk on, so training our dog to walk in booties BEFORE you need him/her to can be a lifesaver. Even though Fauna is well versed in walking in booties, and uses them year round, we always start our refresher course in September to prepare for winter walking. I suggest buying your booties now, and practicing slowly with them around the house so when it comes time to use the booties in the great outdoors, your dog will be used to them.
Start by putting the booties on your dog for a few minutes a day and building up to longer wearing around the house. Remember to derail any concerns by offering a high value treat during the time your pooch is wearing their new booties. Build up to wearing them outside and for longer periods around the house. The goal is to have your dog comfortable in their booties before they are needed. During this time, your dog will alo train you in the fine art of checking to see if their booties are still on while they learn the bootie life.
Dog booties get lost all the time, even the most careful of us need to replace a missing bootie. This is why I use Ruffwear booties, it is super easy to order one or two booties as they need to be replaced (pro tip if you are serious about protecting your dogs feet buy an extra set.). Note: this is not a sponsored advertisement, I use the Ruffwear booties on Fauna all the time and trust their fit and ability to stay on even during long walks. Guide dogs are notoriously tough on toys and toher gear, and I have had no issues with their equipment. I also carry a Ruffwear collapsible bowl in my backpack. I’ll put links to the ones I use at the end of this article.
In 2019, Fauna and I photographed The Special Olympics winter games at Eldora Co. The temperature was 20 degrees and Fauna was decked out in her cozy sweater (something I bought at the end of the season on a clearance track) and booties for quite a long time while we shot each of the events. Most times, a sweater is just fine, I reserve booties for when it is especially icy or if the Temperature is close to that 20 degree range.
If you plan to walk in extreme temperatures, getting your pooch used to the gear they will be waring ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches. This goes for booties, sweaters or even water bowls. I know quite a few dogs that aren’t comfortable drinking out of a collapsible bowl when on the trail, so get them used to all the things they need for a trip out in the weather.
Now that you know all there is to know about taking our dog out and walking in extrema weather, get out there and have some fun!
Fauna’s Booties: https://www.amazon.com/RUFFWEAR-Waterproof-Winter-Weather-Obsidian/dp/B08H7TD2FH/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=ruffwear+boots&qid=1631732068&sr=8-4
Fauna’s Bowl: https://www.amazon.com/Ruff-Products-BarkBowl-Tiffany-800ml/dp/B085X4CFX3/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=collapsible+dog+bowl&qid=1631733251&sr=8-7
My Photography site: http://www.tahquechi.com/
My travel site: http://www.blindtravels.com/
Twitter and Instagram: @nedskee
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