Dogs: Staying safe on winter walks

Wet and windy winter weather might not be very appealing for us but it probably won’t stop your dog from wanting to get out and about.

Our top tips for walking your dog in the dark

As those long winter nights draw in, are you and your dog staying safe on your walks? We’d recommend walking your dog while it’s light but we know that’s not always possible in winter. If you do need to walk your dog in the dark, it’s really important to make sure you’re safe and can be seen by other road users. Here’s our tips:

  • Take a familiar route. That way you’re less likely to come across any unexpected surprises.
  • Always walk against the traffic. Walking on the side of the road towards oncoming cars if there is no pavement or footpath is safer. If you’re ever near the road, you need to make sure you keep your dog as close to you as possible on their lead.
  • Avoid using headphones. You’ll need to be able to listen out for any dangers and keep alert, so don’t wear headphones.
  • Keep your dog on the lead. They could easily find themselves in a lot of trouble off the lead in the dark. Staying on the lead is much safer for both of you.
  • Be seen. Both you and your dog should wear something reflective. For your dog, this could be their collar, lead harness or an appropriate reflective coat. You can even buy LED leads for extra visibility.
  • Take a torch. You may find that in badly lit areas you’ll need the extra light from the torch (and it’ll help when it comes to picking up your dog’s poop!)
  • Take a mobile. Always take your fully charged phone out with you in case you or your dog run into any trouble. Make sure you have an emergency vet saved in the contacts, just in case.
  • Take a friend. If you’re walking your dog in the dark, you might want to take a friend with you to make you feel safer.
  • Watch where you’re walking. Broken glass and other hazards can be difficult to see in the dark. Keep an eye on the ground so your dog doesn’t get hurt.

Staying warm and dry

Winter walks can leave you both feeling cold and bedraggled. It’s a good idea to get warm and dry as soon as you can when you get home. Here’s how you can help your dog:

  • Think about getting a winter coat for your dog, especially for older dogs or ones with thin, fine fur. Read more below about how to find a coat to fit your dog.
  • Dry your dog with a towel after snowy or rainy walks.
  • Clumps of snow or ice balls can form between the pads and toes of really hairy-pawed dogs, so try to keep the hair around their paws trimmed down in the winter to help to minimise this from happening.
  • Doggy boots can sometimes help if your dog is prone to footpad injuries or has very sensitive skin, but most dogs won’t ever need them. Dogs can often find them quite stressful to wear because they restrict their movement and throw them off-balance.

As long as you're careful and keep an eye out for any issues with your dog's paws over the colder winter months, then there’s no reason why your dog can't enjoy lovely winter walks!

Fashion hound: fitting a dog coat

If your dog isn’t a fan of the cold or if they have thin fur, a dog coat can help keep them warm and happy during winter. There’s a lot of choice out there so take a look and try to find a coat that will suit your dog’s needs. You can check the size and fit of the coat by:

  • Size them up. Measure your dog to make sure the coat you buy will fit them well. Measure them around their neck, around the widest part of their chest, and from collar to tail. Knowing your dog’s size and weight will also help you choose the best coat.
  • Be practical. Choose a coat that’s windproof, waterproof, and easily washable. You can also get reflective coats that will help keep your dog safe in the dark.
  • Think about the cover they’ll need. Does your dog tend to get a wet tummy? Choose a coat that covers their belly as well as their back. Short-legged breeds will thank you for the extra protection on wet or frozen paths but bigger dogs will also enjoy the extra warmth in snowy weather.
  • Get your dog to model their new coat. You’ll be able to tell if it fits them and they’ll let you know of any problems. If they scratch or bite at the coat, it’s a sign they aren’t comfortable and you’ll need to try another one.
  • Check your dog can move freely. The coat shouldn’t rub their neck or around their legs, or get in the way when they go to the toilet.

Does your dog’s coat tick all these boxes? Congratulations – your dog will be warm and dry this winter!

Hypothermia: What to do if your dog gets too cold

If temperatures drop, your dog could be at risk from getting too cold and suffering from a condition called hypothermia. This is a really dangerous condition and can cause your dog’s body to shut down. The best way to protect your pooch is to keep them warm on walks and limit the amount of time they spend outside in really cold weather. Read more about the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and what to do if you’re worried about your dog.