How to walk & exercise dogs in winter
The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and we’d all rather stay indoors but our dogs still need regular exercise regardless of what weather awaits beyond the front door. These winter conditions can make the daily walks an unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous experience for owners and their canine companions!
We want to help keep you and your pooch safe with our top tips for walking and exercising your dog in winter.
Is it okay to walk a dog at night?
Our lives don’t slow down during the winter months and for some owners, walking their dog in the dark is the only option. These nighttime walkies can present certain risks due to the lack of visibility, which can lead to accidents, injuries and even loss.
Since it’s harder to see the path ahead and whatever might be sharing it with you, it’s also difficult for you to be seen by others, which greatly increases the risk of accidents.
Wherever you walk, it’s important to make sure you and your dog stay visible, allowing others to see you and even helping wildlife to avoid you.
Keeping yourself safe on dark walks
Here are some top tips to keep you (and your pooch) safe and sound during dark walks.
Don’t walk alone
Head out with a friend or join a local walking group if you can. Walking with others is much safer than going out alone and is often a deterrent for any potential criminals. It’s also a great way to make new friends! If you have to walk alone, you could share your location with someone you trust, letting them know exactly where you are so they can keep an eye on your movements and call if anything looks suspicious.
Staying visible can help keep you safe on evening walks, so wear brightly-coloured or reflective clothing where possible. Carrying a torch or sticking to well-lit pavements can make sure you’re visible to others while ensuring you can see the path ahead of you. Your surroundings can look very different in the dark, so walk a route you know well.
When walking your dog in the dark, it’s important to avoid distractions such as your phone. We can easily get lost to our screens, especially if we’ve not been able to catch up on social media all day, but being aware of your surroundings is really important when out in the dark so you can be alert.
Keeping your dog safe on dark walks
Here are some extra precautions to take whilst walking your dog in the dark to help keep them safe when out and about.
Reflective harness or coats and LED collars can increase your dog’s visibility for cars, bikes, other walkers and wildlife when walking in the dark, letting people and animals keep their distance if needed.
Keep your dog on a lead
Regardless of a dog’s eyesight, the dark could change your dog’s behaviour as objects they’re so used to seeing during the day look so different when the sun is set! Keeping your dog on a lead will give you more control if your pooch becomes frightened and reacts to something they come across while out and about.
Glow in the dark fetch toys
If your dog loves to play fetch but you don’t want to lose any balls to the darkness, why not buy toys that glow in the dark or light up so that the fun doesn’t have to end?
How cold is too cold for walking a dog?
The colder weather can definitely make owners think twice about heading out for a walk, but the dropping temperatures shouldn’t be a reason to stop giving your dog their daily exercise. Dogs can be walked in the cold, but your dog’s size and thickness of their coat are things you should consider before you leave the house.
Remember: If your dog refuses to walk or starts to shiver or whine then you should take them home.
Can dogs stay outside in the winter?
Some dogs enjoy staying outside, but sometimes they need our help keeping safe, especially as the temperatures plummet. Any animal will suffer if left outside in the cold, but some shorter-haired dogs will be more susceptible to the chill.
When in doubt, bring them in and don’t leave them out in the cold, even if they seem to be okay with it. When the digits fall below zero, dogs should be let outside to toilet but should not be exposed to the elements for any prolonged period of time.
Walking dogs in snow
If you’re headed out in the snow, you should take more care than usual when walking your dog as the snowy surfaces can make it easier for dogs to get lost or disorientated. It’s best to avoid taking your dog off the lead to prevent any chance of losing them in the snow.
Stay away from frozen water
Don’t let your dog near any frozen bodies of water as they could risk drowning if the ice breaks! Keeping them on a lead will also ensure that you can lead your pooch from any dangerous areas.
Make sure their microchip is up to date
It’s so important that your dog’s microchip details are up to date with your address and contact details just in case they stray or get lost.
Check their fur and paws
The grit from the roads, the dampness from rain or snow and any spills they might come across while walking can irritate their skin, so you should always wipe their legs, feet and stomach once you’re back home.
How can I get my dog to exercise enough in winter?
Just like us humans, dogs can often get bored during the winter months, especially if they don’t get outside or exercise as often as they used to, which may lead to destructive behaviours. When it’s too cold out, why not turn to indoor activities to keep your dog stimulated?
Exercises to replace reduced walking time
While winter might call for shorter dog walks, your pooch’s needs remains the same! Here are some ways to keep your dog entertained indoors, helping you replace the exercise they might be losing thanks to the weather.
Teach them new tricks
The colder months provide a great opportunity for you to teach your dog new tricks or refresh on the ones they might already know.
Why not… set yourself a challenge of teaching your pooch a certain number of tricks before spring arrives?
Whilst throwing a ball in the house might not be the best idea… you could play fetch with your dog’s favourite toy. As long as it’s not going to bounce into furniture!
Hide and seek
Playing hide and seek with your dog can be great fun! You can either hide small dog treats around your home and encourage your pooch to seek them out or… hide yourself.