If you live in a climate with dramatic seasonal changes, you face a few problems with your dog.
Not all breeds or mixed breeds love the cold. Chihuahuas in particular are sensitive to cold. Your dog may actually hate to go outside.
If, on the other hand, your doggy best friend is an exercise freak who badgers you constantly to go out into the snow for a frolic, or you have a dog with lots of energy that they need to release, you will have to make sure your dog is dressed for the weather.
According to the American Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), whether they want to go out not and whether it’s a bit chilly or not, pets need both fresh air and exercise. The staff cautions, however, that if your dog is a smaller breed (like chihuahuas) or has short hair, you might need to invest in some pet apparel for warmth.
And if your best buddy is reluctant to put a paw outside the front door, you might need to work on some basic training before trying to force playtime in the snow, ASPCA Animal Trainer Kristen Collins advises.
I want to stress that small dogs like chihuahuas should never be forced to play outside if they don’t want to. Even with coats, they can’t handle the cold like other breeds. So if you can get them outside for 10 minutes of playtime, consider that a win!
Here are 10 guidelines to help your dog enjoy winter weather more:
1. Use enticement techniques. Start with off-leash exercises or simple playing such as tug or fetch. If you have other dogs or can arrange a doggy play date, getting any aerobic activity will help keep your pet warm when the weather’s cold.
2. Give treats as rewards. Even the slightest positive behavior, such as fetching a favorite toy, should be rewarded for maximum effect. Your dog will link this extra incentive to an interest in venturing outside when the mercury’s shivering.
3. Set aside special treats for excursions. Use high-value tiny training treats so as not to add too many calories.
As the two of you proceed at a steady walk, offer something special at intervals. Some dog owners even feed their pet breakfast by hand during an excursion.
4. Consider indoor training classes. Ideal activities are those that increase agility, such as flyball. Indoor facilities are usually temperature controlled to make sure both pets and owners are comfortable.
5. Take walks in wooded areas. Make that safe wooded areas, of course. Dogs generally have an interest in trees. Forested areas are rich in all kinds of smells, sights and sounds and offer some protection from the elements. Most dogs become so interested in this environment that they’re distracted from the cold or snow.
6. Invest in canine boots. Not every pet will tolerate them, but they’re ideal for the dog who dreads salt and chemical de-icers or even snow on the sidewalk. You can purchase them at pet stores as well as online retailers such as Amazon and Chewy.
Make sure to study the size requirements because you won’t want to shell out for Velcro boots that fall off one block into your outing.
7. Consider a paw wax. If your furry friend won’t tolerate boots, the ASPCA recommends trying Musher’s Secret, a waxy product you can apply to the dog’s paws. It protects toes and paw pads when walking on snow and ice.
8. Make sure your dog is warm. Assuming you don’t own a sled dog, you need to consider if any reluctance is due simply to being cold. Chihuahuas need to be dressed to be out in the cold for any length of time. You should also dress puppies, who lack adult body fat, in a coat or sweater.
All dogs should have waterproof gear on hand. Also, consider investing in a fitted coat, especially one with fleece, that covers the dog’s back as well as the tummy. You will need to measure to get the right size.
Since dogs burn more calories to stay warm in cold temperatures, you should talk to your veterinarian to see if your buddy needs an increased amount of food in the winter.
9. Know when to give up. You’ve tried every enticement that crossed your mind, and Fido or Fifi still balks at going outside. It’s time to find ways for your dog to get extra indoor exercise. It doesn’t have to involve elaborate toys. Chasing balls and playing tug of war and both highly effective methods.
10. Increase mental alertness. During the dark days of winter, pets tend to get bored. You can increase your dog’s mental energy, the ASPCA says, by feeding meals or snacks in toys that are actually puzzles. The dog must roll the ball a certain way for a piece of food to be released.
You can also use the time to teach your pet new tricks and bond with games like hide and seek. There are lots of games your dog can play indoors and if the weather is too cold, that’s your best option with small dogs like chihuahuas.
Do you take your dog outside to play or exercise when it’s cold? If so, do you have any tips or tricks that help make it a great experience for you and your dog? Let us know in the comments.