Dogs need walking, rain, shine, sleet or snow, all year round. Sometimes people ask us if they should buy clothing for their dog for protection against the elements. The answer is that it depends on your dog.
Some dogs, like our dog Lexie, love the cold and hate wearing clothing. I don’t dress her for winter because she doesn’t need it, and doesn’t like it. Other dogs do get cold and don’t seem to mind wearing clothes–like Moon Unit. . Dogs without much body fat or much fur get colder and might need a little help maintaining their body temperature in the form of a sweater or sweatshirt. (Also, full disclosure, we really enjoy choosing outfits for Moon Unit.)
While clothing is optional, paw protection is a must. NYC law requires property owners to clear the sidewalks after every snow storm. The ice-melter that is used is called “salt,” but it is not just regular old salt–it is a cocktail of chemicals that can be very tough on your dog’s feet. While some dogs seem impervious to chemical salt, others limp through the whole winter with chemically-caused cracks in their pads. Lexie wears reusable plastic dog booties when the salt comes out. They look like balloons and you can buy them in 12-packs.
We have also tried cloth and rubber shoes–they can be super effective at protecting Lexie’s feet, as long as they don’t fall off. When Lexie wears shoes, we spend a lot of time doubling back to pick up a fallen booty. Another solution is paw wax. It looks like a cross between candle wax and vaseline in a small tin. Massage it onto your dog’s feet before going outside and it created a pretty effective, water-proof barrier between the pads and the snow/salt/slush.
Even if your dog is the type that doesn’t seem affected by the salt on the ground, you will still want to be sure to wipe your dog’s feet after walking out in the snow to remove the salt before your dog removes it with his tongue and ingests all those chemicals. We’ve been doing a lot of foot-wiping here at Doggedly Devoted after mid-day walks!