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Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Wintertime means icy sidewalks, plenty of snow and low temperatures for most people in the nation. However, despite the chilly atmosphere, your dog still needs to get exercise, regardless of what time of year it is. Yet unlike the warmer months, you face a few tough elements, and you might want to be prepared for these.

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Consider these tips on walking your dog in the winter:

What happens if your dog doesn't exercise?
During the winter, people may become busy with a slew of holiday events and other activities. This busy behavior may make it difficult to walk your dog, as you don't have as much free time as you do in other seasons, such as summer and in many places the days are much shorter. However, your dog requires exercise at every point throughout the year, even the winter, the website VetStreet notes. Neglecting to give him the proper physical activity he requires can be detrimental for his physical health and mental behavior. For instance, he may become anxious or hyper if you're away for long periods of time. This could lead him to express his energy in a negative way, such as chewing on your family room end table's leg. Once this behavior begins, it isn't easy to end. Your pup might carry these actions and habits into the spring months and even the summer if they're not corrected properly. A pup without exercise may also gain weight and experience a few poor health effects. So, always try to make time for your dog's walk - it's more important than you think. Even if the walks are shorter than normal, that's OK. He just needs some exercise.

Dress properly
If you live in a part of the country that faces all the elements each winter, including low temperatures, you know the importance of dressing warm. Always dress in layers to help retain heat better, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states. Wear a durable winter jacket that's water resistant if it's snowing. Wearing the proper footwear is important, too - look for a pair of shoes with good traction in case you and your dog hit a slippery patch of ice. They should also be waterproof to protect your feet from any melted snow or sleet. Bring along a thick pair of gloves and make sure they have a good grip that will still allow you to hold the leash well. However, if you're walking a dog that has a desire to constantly pull, you may want to consider horse riding gloves.

Though some dogs can tolerate the cold for short periods of time thanks to a thick coat, other dogs may need additional gear. Consider getting your pup a snow jacket that wraps around the main part of his body and helps hold in heat. Look for ones that have a good lining and can repel water. Dogs who are young or old, have short hair, or are small may require a coat. Like humans, dogs need footwear in the cold. Get your dog a pair of dog booties to help him out. There are plenty of different kinds on the market, but look for basics such as booties with traction and a strap that can keep the booties on his feet. If this is your first winter together, you may need to train him to adjust to the feeling of booties, as the feeling can be a little odd at first. Let him walk around the house and reward him for wearing them to develop a positive reinforcement. Once your dog has the booties on, immediately get his attention by bringing him outside for a walk. If your dog refuses to wear booties, consider getting him gels that you can put on his paws. These can also protect his feet from the harsh cold that can cause his paws to crack and possibly bleed.

If your dog has a tendency to pull, you may also want to consider a harness to prevent you from losing your balance. Avoid using a retractable leash and use a solid one instead. You may also want to consider a jogger leash, which wraps around your waist. That way, if you hit a patch of ice and fall, you've still got ahold of your dog even if your hands don't.

Watch for his signs
Since dogs can't communicate verbally, you need to be mindful of his physical signals, the American Veterinary Medical Association notes. Look to see if he's trying to tell you that he's cold. Some common signs include shaking, refusing to keep walking, whining or picking up his feet constantly. It's important to remember that even if you're warm, your dog may not be. If your dog is showing you these signs, don't make him wait it out. Go back to the house, wipe him down with a dry towel and wait for a warmer day. In the meantime, consider playing a few fun activities inside to get his blood pumping.

These are just a few common tips to consider before taking your dog on a walk. Following these suggestions will help you and him still get the exercise you need even in the frigid weather.