It’s cold out there. There’s ice, snow, mud, and slippery surfaces. The days are also shorter – we go to work in the dark and we come home in the dark. All of this highlights the need to brush up on safe winter dog walking tips and strategies. While the weather can be less-than-welcoming and the lack of sunlight can be limiting, with a few adjustments you can still enjoy your daily (or multiple) dog walks with your beloved pet. These dog walks give your dog much needed exercise, mental stimulation, joint health support, and fresh air – all ideal for keeping him fit and mobile. And for you, the time you spend outdoors with your dog is just as important in giving you exercise, a chance to destress, and much needed one-on-one time with your dog. Don’t let the frosty weather and short days keep you from walking your dog. With our tips you and your dog can reap the rewards of dog walking – it’s a win-win for both you and your dog and your joints will thank you! Light Up for Safety Frankly, it’s dark in the morning and it’s dark in the evening. Think of how hard it is for you to see pedestrians, cyclists, and other dog walkers in these dark hours. The brighter the better is the best approach for this time of the year. Adding a flashing red light to your dog’s collar, use a leash that has blinking lights, wear a reflective vest over your coat, and make sure your dog’s coat has some reflective material on it. When you’re out walking – don’t assume that motorist can see you. Assume that you’re invisible and approach every intersection and driveway with caution. It’s so easy with the dark, rain, snow, and blinding headlights for motorists to not see you. Just as we practice defensive driving in the winter, we want you to practice defensive dog walking this winter. Practice Good Leash Habits We all want to believe that our dog will come when we call him…. However, the reality is that our dogs do get distracted, ignore us, or simply can’t hear us when we call them. Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Using a leash keeps your dog safe and protected from running into the street, from sudden interactions with other dogs, and keeps your dog controlled around other people. There are lots of types of leashes and harnesses available. Choose a combination that fits your dog properly and works best for his breed and size. While extendable leashes are very popular, consider how hard these can be to control – particularly when out walking in the dark with busy traffic. Remember the Weather Depending on where you live, there will be days when it will be very cold and likely very snowy. While it’s important that your dog gets his daily exercise to help him burn off energy and to provide joint health support – don’t walk at all costs. If it’s very cold or the conditions are dangerous, it’s a good idea to be flexible with your walk plans. Consider shortening the walk or changing the time of the day when you walk – you definitely do not want to be out trying to navigate snowy streets when your neighbors are using snow blowers and the city snow plows are out. As well, remember to dress your dog for the weather – a warm dog coat and protective dog boots are critical in keeping your dog healthy and safe. Proactive Dog Joint Care When it’s cold, damp, or raining – your dog’s arthritis symptoms and other joint problems can be aggravated. Pay attention to how your dog is walking and moves indoors after your walk. Look for any stiffness, problems standing, or jumping – these can all indicate that your dog’s joints are sore and stiff. To help alleviate arthritis symptoms and joint discomfort, consider using a natural dog chew such as Leaps & Bounds to provide natural joint support. Along with a supportive dog joint supplement, look for ways to keep your dog comfortable before, during, and after your walks. Walk on smooth surfaces and avoid ice to prevent slipping and falls. When you get in from your walk, give your dog a nice rub down with a warm dry towel and inspect his paws for any ice clumps or paw soreness (be on the look-out for frostbite and remember to use protective dog boots). Treat your dog to a comfy dog bed that has supportive padding and for extra luxury, invest in a specialized heated dog bed to give your dog’s joints some extra care (do not use a standard heating pad – these can emit too much heat for dogs and can be dangerous). Have a Safe and Fun Winter Dog Walk Remember to enjoy the winter season. Take advantage of your local parks and hiking areas for a chance to let your dog chase a ball or dig for a hidden stick. Some communities have stipulations about dog access in the winter so be sure to review these policies before walking on trails designated for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snow mobiles. A few more pointers – don’t let your dog eat snow (you never know what’s in the snow), remember to look-out for ice melter and salt (this can damage your dog’s paws), let your dog sniff and dig but be extra careful (you never know what’s under the snow), and above all else – make the most of the winter months. Don’t hibernate – get out to enjoy the snow and crisp air. Are you a seasoned winter dog walker? Do you have some advice on how to make the most of the winter dog walking season? Visit the Leaps & Bounds Facebook page and share your tips and advice with our Leaps & Bounds community.