With the days getting shorter and the temperature getting lower with each passing week, many people are feeling more and more compelled to stay inside and snuggle up in the warmth of their homes. Sometimes, our canine friends feel the same way. While some dogs love to walk and play regardless of the conditions outside, others prefer to keep their feet and fur dry and their bodies warm during the fall and winter months. This may mean fewer walks outdoors for you, but can also result in more messes in the house, or an energetic dog on your hands.
Identifying the reason your dog hates the cold
Not all dogs hate the cold, and not all dogs who hate the cold do so for the same reasons. For short-haired dogs and many small dogs, the thing deterring them from stepping outside is likely the low temperatures and cold air. Older or arthritic dogs often have the same issue, and according to VCA Hospitals, exposure to extremely cold weather may result in a condition called acute caudal myopathy, or limber tail, which causes the tail to droop. Some dogs may not like having wet feet after or during a snowfall, which is especially common for dogs who experience itchy yeast infections in between their paws. Some canines might even be anxious around the whipping of cold winds, which can make the outdoors feel like an unsafe place. Whatever your dog's aversion, it's important to identify it so that you may accommodate her needs for stepping outside to exercise or use the restroom in the winter.
Making your canine comfortable
Understanding why your dog doesn't enjoy cold weather can help you set him up for success, even if for just long enough to take a quick potty break outside. Outerwear is a common and popular canine accessory in cooler climates, and are available in a wide variety of styles and sizes online and in pet supply stores. Keeping dogs' paws free from frost, moisture, and painful rock salt on city sidewalks will make walking outside more comfortable, and can be done with booties or specialty products, like Musher's Wax, either of which provides a protective barrier between sensitive feet and the cold ground. Some walking boots for dogs are also designed with grips on the bottoms, which can prevent slipping and injuries in all dogs, especially older or arthritic canines.
When snow covers the ground, keeping your sidewalk, driveway, or even a path through your yard shoveled can keep snow-averse dogs more inclined to venture out into the elements as well worth the time and effort. If it's a particularly wet or slushy day, waterproof clothing can keep your pet dry and comfortable — wiping off wet bellies, legs, and paws with a small towel during longer walks may also make things more pleasant for your pet. If possible, do your best to reserve longer jaunts outside during the warmest parts of the day, when the sun is out, and save shorter bathroom breaks for cooler evenings.
Positive reinforcement and cold weather
Sometimes, it might take more than simply zipping up your pooch into a waterproof coat or booties to coax them outside (let alone to pee or poop in such weather). Positive reinforcement training, which leads a dog to associate "good" behavior with rewards, like food or praise, is a safe, effective method for getting dogs acclimated with new routines, settings, and actions. Many dog owners opt for positive reinforcement techniques, like clicker training, when teaching their canines to use the restroom outside, or to walk calmly on leash. These same techniques may be of help when getting your dog outside in cold weather.
Here's how to get started: offer your dog a treat each time she steps outside, then allow her to go back indoors right away, to help associate that outdoor time is temporary and comes with a reward. Over time, increase the time and distance you spend outside, weather permitting, rewarding her along the way, especially when milestones are reached, like peeing outside. For more tips or hands-on education, find a local dog trainer in your area to help your friend withstand cold weather walks while enjoying as much as possible.
Finally, if you know that your pet isn't built for cold weather, or simply doesn't like it, don't push them to stay out for longer than is necessary. If a walk around the block and a bathroom break is all your pet needs to stay healthy and comfortable in the winter,, reward them for doing what's expected, and head back home once the goals have been reached with their tolerance for cold in mind. If you noticed that your dog is shivering or shaking, stops walking, or becomes weak during walks, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends getting your dog indoors immediately, as these may be signs of hypothermia.