Quiz time! What do each of these breeds have in common?
American Eskimo Dog
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Karakachan Bear Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
If you said they’re all dogs, you’re half right 😛
If you said they’re all cold weather dogs, you’re completely right! Each of these breeds can withstand very low temperatures. In fact, some were purposefully bred that way in order to do the jobs they were given by their humans. For example, the husky and malamute were meant to pull sleds over great distances in cold, snowy weather.
Most of these breeds also boast a double coat. What is a double coat, you ask? A double coat is precisely that, two distinct coats on one dog. They have a softer, denser undercoat that acts as insulation against the cold, keeps them cool during the summer, and protects them from the harmful effects of UV rays. The rougher outer coat is made up of guard hairs that repel moisture and help keep dirt and other undesirables out of the undercoat.
If you live in a northern region, as I do, everything is still frozen, and there may yet be more snow to come. You remember my sister, Patricia, and her dog Luna Lovegood? Luna Lovegood is a Border Collie/Boxer/Whippet mix. Only one of those breeds tends to have a longer coat, but none of those breeds have a double coat and none of them are cold weather dogs. But, like many dogs, Luna loves to play in the snow.
Isn’t she adorable? If you notice, though, her coat is short and thin. We can play outside for a few hours, but we would never leave her out there longer than that. Like humans, dogs are susceptible to frost bite and hypothermia, especially if they were not bred for winter weather.
What if they have a dog house? Won’t their body heat in the enclosed space keep them warm enough? No, it won’t. Not unless it’s raised off the ground, facing away form the icy wind, you’ve insulated it well, and laid down a bed of cedar shavings or straw. Though much cheaper, old blankets and sheets just won’t cut it. If they get wet, they aren’t going to keep your dog warm. Cedar shavings and straw are both great insulators and retain heat well. Be aware, however, that you will need to change it out for a new layer every 2-3 weeks to keep it clean and dry.
Heating pads and units are also a great option to keep your pet warm outside. Just be sure not to leave them on all the time as that can cause burns and/or dehydration, and make sure the cords are properly hidden away so they can’t be chewed on. Electrocution is the last thing you want to worry about during winter time!
Toy breeds and smaller dogs should not be left out during the winter at all! They do not generate enough body heat to keep warm even in an insulated dog house. Furthermore, they really don’t take up very much room, so just keep them inside!
Water is another concern if you’re keeping your dog outside during the winter. Even if they have a warm place to stay, they will still be at risk for dehydration and death if their water is constantly frozen. To prevent this from happening you can either go and change their water out every few hours, or you can spend a little extra and purchase a heated water bowl. Eating snow will not keep them hydrated!
If your dog is outside a lot during the winter time, whether for play, walks, or because they live out there, be sure to check their paw pads regularly.
Ice crystals and snow balls can get lodged between your dog’s paw pads and cause redness, irritation, sores, and/or cuts. Trimming the hair between the pads can help prevent snow and ice crystals from sticking to them. To protect their paw pads from sharp ice, hard snow, and chemicals left from non-pet friendly snow melt you can massage bag balm into their pads. This will also prevent them from cracking painfully during dry winter weather. In addition, many people have created homemade protective wax that can be applied to your dog’s paw pads. You can find one such recipe by Andrea here: http://frugallysustainable.com/protective-paw-wax/
Even with these many ways to protect their pads, however, you should still consider washing and drying their paws and stomach to remove any ice, salt, or chemicals as well as checking their pads for cracks and looking between them for any redness.
Some, of course, choose to go another way by using winter booties, which can be more effective than anything else.
You can also protect your short-haired and small or toy dogs from the winter weather and the risk of frost bite and hypothermia by making or purchasing doggie sweaters or coats. This was my second attempt to crochet a sweater for my Pixie-girl, and I think it turned out rather well! We bought the booties, though, since my attempt to make them did not turn out quite as well, lol.
Be sure to introduce any sweaters, coats, or booties to your dog in a positive manner. You don’t want to have to fight or chase your dog around the house just to get their winter gear on each time you want to go out or have them try to tear them off once they’re on!
If you’re unsure what to do to protect your dog during winter, you can contact your local shelter or veterinarian for the correct information.
What do you do to protect your fluffybutts during the winter? Share your methods and/or suggestions in the comments below! As always, please consider becoming a part of our Fluffybutt Family and following us on our journey 🙂