Some days I wish my dog could read a thermometer.
I know two things will happen after I get home tonight: the temperature will drop, and Jack will still want a walk. I should be grateful, for there are plenty of days when I wouldn’t go out and walk at all, but for the continual guilty stares I get from that insistent little pooch. And there are days when I feel proud, knowing we are the only ones tough (or dumb) enough to challenge the weather for our nightly stroll.
This will not be one of those nights. I won’t feel proud; I’ll feel like I’m trudging across tundra.
I will, however give in and at least give him the chance to go out for a bit—if for no other reason than to tire him out and quiet him down. If your dog is as determined to go for a walk as Jack usually is, you might want to take some precautions when you’re braving the icy winds and slick sidewalks.
Obviously, dress appropriately. Layers are better than a single heavy coat, because you can peel them off and put them back on if you get too warm or too cold. I usually wear a tank top, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a short sleeved t-shirt, a hooded sweat shirt and a jacket—and a wool hat, of course. If it’s exceptionally windy, I can pull the hood up over the hat. If that gets too warm I have a handy vent.
Your hands and feet are particularly vulnerable, because your body concentrates all of your blood (and therefore, your body heat) at your core. Wear gloves. I sometimes wear two pair, a thinnish fabric pair under a fleece pair. Thick socks are recommended; you can even wear shoes that are a size or half a size too big so you can put on a second pair. Also, consider some kind of pocket warmer for additional protection.
It’s okay to skip a workout or two—or scale them back—during exceptionally cold weather, too. The body already works harder than it normally does when the temperature dips (that can be particularly true for people with diabetes, because that condition shrinks blood vessels and inhibits circulation). The last thing you want to do is mix up your workout, because combining walking with running, can make you more vulnerable to the cold if you repeatedly work up a sweat and then get chilly.
For your pet:
Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm. Dogs can lose their scent in snow and ice and easily become lost, or they may panic and run away and get lost. More dogs are lost during winter than in any other season. Jack is living proof. Poor little guy was found wandering and starving in February a few years back.
Wipe them down and check their feet when you get back. Salt or other ice melters can aggravate their paws—and make them sick when try to lick the residue off themselves.
If you have a short-haired breed, make them wear a coat or a sweater (even though they may not want to). Jack is a Jack Russell Terrier, a wire-hair, and doesn’t like to dress up—at all. I usually make him wear one if it gets below 30 degrees, just to be safe, although it triples the prep time.
“Well, do you want to dance, or do you want to walk?” I ask him when I try to coax it over his head as he prances around to avoid it.
It should also go without saying that you should bring them inside at night and never leave your pet in your vehicle—and that goes for either warm or cold weather. Make sure they have a warm place to sleep that is away from drafts; either on a dog or cat bed or a blanket.
Finally, even if you have an outdoor dog that is comfortable in lower temperatures, make sure you increase the protein in their diet. It will help them grow thick, healthy fur—and, on days like these, who wouldn’t want that?