Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The first winter with Wish

Well, technically it's spring, and I just realized that our first winter with Wish is almost over. (I heard on the radio that our snowpack might be gone by the weekend!) Because I'll soon be completely done with blogging about snow and winter for the year, I wanted to record some of what we learned about how to have a happy winter with a dog. This is probably going to be a post for the dog owners among you, but upon re-reading my tips, they are pretty applicable to humans, too, if you're in the mood to extrapolate.

P.S. I am totally not a dog expert. These are just my first-hand observations.

1) Find appropriate footwear (for the humans). Wish's wardrobe needs (or lack therof) are coming up later, but this is by far my top tip. For us, this meant finding some winter boots for the first time in many years. Even when there wasn't snow, it was so much more comfortable to have tall boots for extra warmth - and when there was snow, boots were essentially mandatory. I picked out this pair of Lands End boots in glacier blue, and they were one of my winter must-haves, even though I learned when the snow turned to slush and puddles that they are more water resistant than water proof. (But either way, still super warm.) Josh got some very serious winter boots for his birthday and I think he would endorse finding a good pair of boots just as firmly.

2) Figure out what your pup needs to be comfortable and safe. I heard a lot about booties for dogs going into the winter, and I harbored little daydreams about Wish wearing adorable little booties as he trotted merrily through the snow. It turned out that wearing booties was not on his wish list (puns on our dog's name are always welcome at Miles and Laurel). I think it would be a two-person job to put the booties on him, since it sure didn't work the one time I tried by myself. Anyway, the booties exist because some dogs are bothered by salt and sand in their paws, but that didn't trouble Wish, so the booties were out.  If we were walking through heavy, wet snow, he sometimes got clumps of snow stuck around his paws and would need a break (or help) to remove them.

Also, he basically comes with a big sweater - do you need me to post another picture of him? - so he didn't need a jacket, but some dogs with thinner coats do.

Okay, another picture:

3) Layer up. I learned that going for a walk in the winter was quite different than going for a run, when it's surprisingly easy to warm up nicely within the first mile or two. It just takes longer to warm up on a walk. On the first few chilly days of late fall, Josh and I were both underdressed and cut a walk short, and we both concluded that it wasn't fair to Wish  to do that just because we weren't dressed properly. We both started layering more and keeping winter accessories close to the door. (I found that it's dicier to second-guess accessory decisions when you're walking a dog. Should you grab gloves? It takes only one walk that finishes with popsicle hands to realize that yes, you should almost always grab gloves.)

4) Keep up your exercise routine (usually). This varies from dog to dog (I heard stories from friends whose dogs have a really hard time in the winter because of thin coats) but there were only a few bitterly cold days that bothered Wish. We could always tell when the weather bothered him, because he'd start walking a little gingerly and trying to avoid touching the sidewalk with his paws. We cut those walks short, and I would probably guess that our average walks in the winter were shorter than our summer and fall ones, too. But if the weather was a little warmer one day, or I knew a cold snap was coming, I'd try to get him out for a proper stroll. If we were stuck inside, I'd try to get a good game of football fetch going for him.

5) Remember to play. If your dog likes to play in the snow, I definitely encourage this, because besides being gloriously fun for him, it really boosted my spirits during a sometimes dreary season to watch him roll, sniff, gallop, and trundle in the snow. There's no doubt we laughed more than usual this winter because of this goofball. I only wish we could let him off-leash to see him really go wild. He reminded us that winter can be very fun.

More seasoned dog owners, what did I miss? Does yours like to play outside or prefer to wait til spring? Does he or she need a jacket or booties? And what's your best tip for taking care of your pup during a cold winter?

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and wish I could come up with a good pun to expresss my delight. -sj