Canine Behaviour: Chilly paws and cold weather

Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
Karen Wild column EMN-140715-124751001
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We had a tiny bit of snow this last week, and plenty of cold frosty mornings to think about when walking our dogs.

How can we get our dogs to be comfortable and warm, or do we just let them get on with the cold weather as they see fit? After all, they have fur coats!

Dog coats come in every shape and size; some are fashionably coloured or with funny text or fancy logos. Some are straighforwardly practical, and some even have sleeves.

Dogs have been bred for different purposes, so if your dog has very little coat, such as a Miniature Pinscher or a Whippet, and extra layer is very welcome on a cold windy day.

A young puppy may not have grown out his coat yet, so a little extra help would be worthwhile. Ideally something you can get on and off without any fuss, since we need puppies to learn to feel happy about being handled as closely as this.

Many dogs are growing into extended old age too, so keep your oldie’s bones warm with a nice comfortable coat or jacket.

Have you seen the Chinese Crested breed, who are mostly hairless? They are hard to miss, with the patterns of pigment in their skin. They do need to have some sort of covering to help them regulate their body temperature.

Dog coats can be vary in design. Your best choice might be one with a tummy protector as well. Not just a strap. You can find coats with an underneath panel that protects your dog from mud, thorns and dry stubble as well as preventing them becoming entangled with the dreaded teazels that are awful to remove.

You can even buy sleeved jumpers that cover your dog’s front legs, and even the back ones. They really do look like a human ‘onesie’, but are best left for those dogs really needing them in the cold rather than a fashion item.

What if you have bought a lovely coat but your dog shudders at the thought of having it put on? If you think your dog really needs to wear it, try putting it on them for a treat or two, or allowing them to wear it whilst they first do something nice such as playing with your, or eating their dinner. It will help them adjust to the unfamiliar sensation of having something to wear.

Dog jumpers, t-shirts and unusual designs may not be suitable unless there is a practical purpose in mind. Think of your dog’s needs rather than your own; do they care about ‘bling’ and bow ties? Thought not! However, if they would normally wear something to combat a lack of fur, then as long as they are comfy then you have a lot of choice.

Normally your dog’s pads on their feet are tough. However, if they are not accustomed to the cold and are suddenly exposed to frost, this may be uncomfortable. Remove any ice and mud for a cleaner house and happier dog.

Karen Wild is an APBC registered behaviourist and qualified dog trainer with 20 years’ experience. She is also a Certificated clinical animal behaviourist. Her practice ‘Pawprint’ offers behaviour referrals for vet practices and puppy classes in the local area. Karen is a training and behaviour contributor for Dogs Today magazine and author of ‘What your Dog Wants’. To find out more visit www.karenwild.co.uk or call 01778 560465.