Moving from sunny Southern California to the snowy Midwest is a big change for anyone — including the family dog! Since I’ve lived in Idaho my whole life — a winter wonderland if there ever was one — I felt I had some advice to help with the transition.
Q: My dog and I just moved from Southern California to Wisconsin, and it’s starting to get a lot colder than we’re used to. What should I do to make sure my dog is prepared for winter?
A: Having lived in Idaho all my life, I know just what kind of weather you’re facing. Brrrr!
First things first: Provide protective gear as needed. Lots of people object to dogs wearing clothes, but shorthaired or thin-skinned dogs such as greyhounds or pugs don’t have much fur or fat for insulation, and it’s a real kindness to provide them with a warm coat or sweater to protect them from the elements. Not every dog needs a winter coat. Nordic breeds like Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies love the cold and snow and will happily dig themselves a snow cave to relax in.
Whether your dog needs booties depends on similar factors. If he walks on streets or sidewalks that have been treated with salts to melt ice, booties will protect his feet from chemicals. And longhaired dogs often get snow or ice balls between their foot pads. They may need booties as well, or you can try clipping the hair so there’s less opportunity for ice balls to form.
When he plays outdoors, make sure your dog has a sheltered area where he’ll be protected from wind and snow. How long should your dog stay outside? Once he’s accustomed to the new climate, he can stay outdoors as long as he wants if he has a place where he can retreat from the elements.
Finally, never let your dog off-leash in an unfenced area. One hazard dogs face in winter is being hit by a car because the driver’s vision is limited by snow piled on the sides of the road.
Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.