Winter with Your Dog

The Winter Season with Your Dog

 When winter hits New York City, the season temperamentally swings from delightful, beautiful, and serene to dangerous, ugly, and brutal.  You must be prepared for the many scenarios that the season offers.

 - Items to stock and have on reserve – baby wipes, towels, blankets, shampoo and conditioner, etc.  A conditioner spray is very practical as you can spray your pet before drying it if you get caught in the rain or a snow fall.

- Coats are needed for short haired dogs, however if it is bitter cold and the wind is furious it may be best to have a coat or sweater on hand for a dog with a longer, natural covering.  Also a coat helps keep the slush and dirt off of the dog’s belly. In fact, if you can find a coat with legging in the front, it might make a significant difference.

- Doggy Boots – I believe that it is a great idea to have doggy boots in the city.  It cuts down on dirt, water and slush in the house, and also no matter how hard you try to wipe their paws, all of the dirt does not come off.  The key is to start when the dog is a puppy so that they get used to the feeling of the boots.  I have tried to get boots for Lulu Belle, as she does not like to get her paws wet, and the hair on her paws gets long and holds dirt and water.  I started her training much too late in her life.  She barely walked in her boots, and when she did I would look back to see that one or two had fallen off.  I gave up, but my hope and suggestion for all new puppy owners is that they begin using boots at the same time they begin using a collar.

- How often you take your dog out is a function of their normal schedule.  I have not altered our walking schedule because of the snow, but I will say that I dread each walk.  With 3 dogs to clean up after, wipe their paws, and coats, it is exhausting.  Especially with my little one, C.C., as her belly is so low to the sidewalk, she is filthy when she gets back inside.  It looks as if she dragged her belly along the sidewalk, and her normally white fur is usually completely black when we get back home.

 - Grooming – After every walk I wipe their paws, legs, belly and ears with baby wipes.  This reduces the dirt in the apartment, and on the furniture and bed, however it is not enough.  Some pet owners are diligent about bathing their pets and some are not.  I fall in between.  I must admit that I often check the weather for the following few days when I plan to give them a bath.  As I said, with 3 dogs, bath time is exhausting for me, so I want them to remain as clean as possible for as long as possible.  However, recently, they were so dirty that I had to plop them in the tub.  Since we are in the middle of a wicked snow storm, I knew that my work would be fruitless within an afternoon, but I could not deal with the dirt anymore. 

- Wiping their paws and eyes is especially important with all of the salt that is sprinkled on the sidewalk.  If you do not get the salt off of their paws, they may get it in their eyes which can cause an infection or irritation; they can lick their paws ingesting salt particles causing vomiting and diarrhea; and the least of the problems is that the salt on their wet paws tracks white prints through the foyer of your apartment building (if you do not have carpet), and onto the floors of your space until you wipe them.

- Covering your furniture and bedding with a sheet is a great way to reduce the dirt and winter grime, especially if you have allergies.  I suffer from many allergies and I have found that when I have not covered my furniture and bedding I suffer the effects of different allergens.  The dogs track particles onto the furniture and bedding, even after a thorough wiping, and I begin to sneeze and worse cough as if I have been smoking my whole like (I am not, nor have I ever been a smoker).  I have to use an asthma inhaler and Vick’s Vapor Rub on my chest, as well as conduct relaxation exercises to combat a cough that can be almost eliminated with the use of a sheet.

- If you have steam heat in your apartment it is important to make sure that you have water available for your dogs throughout the day at least.  The air dries out and they become thirstier.  This may increase the number of times you take them outside, but the dogs should be hydrated.

- Also you may want to crack open the window to allow air to flow through your space.  Most dogs have a thicker coat during the winter season and will feel the heat more intensely than you will.  You will have to bundle up for a while as your place will get colder than you may like, but it is worth it.

- Human Apparel – I have winter dog walking clothes – water proof boots, a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves.  The boots/shoes should have treads on the bottom so you will not slip.  The coat should be a bit shorter as you will have to bend down to pick up waste, and I have found that my longer coats drag on the sidewalk (yuck!!!).  The scarf as well should be tucked in your coat as to not touch the sidewalk.  The palms of the gloves should not be slippery so that the leashes do not slide and you lose your grip.  Leather gloves, while fashionable, may not work unless the palms are suited for gripping. Consider getting construction/work gloves from a hardware store – not fashionable but very practical.

- Doggy Bag (like a diaper bag for dogs) – I use a Prada bag that I wear across my body.  Please do not be impressed or think that I am a fashionista.  I saved for months to get this bag, and I can tell you the best use for it is for carrying doggy poo poo bags.  It has no interior pockets, but it is nylon thus cleans up easily and is lightweight.  In the bag I carry a large supply of plastic poo poo bags, both big and small, paper towels for diarrhea or stomach upset accidents (I do my best to wipe up the concrete), a Ziploc bag for money, and business cards.  While some people may have a better solution this works for me at this point.  Men usually have far more pockets than women might have in their clothing, so a bag may not be an essential.

- Let’s face it.  Much dirt will be dragged in the house.  Have a mop on hand with your favorite cleaning product.  Make sure to research ‘pet approved’ products before you use them on the floor.  Also it is helpful to run the vacuum cleaner over the floor before you use any cleaning product.  This reduces the amount of hair and dirt that collects on the mop and saves you time.  If you have the luxury of a foyer, you may be able to let your pets dry. I recommend regular towels to absorb water quickly.

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