Grooming Your Dog for Winter
Whether you love wintertime with the passion of a Siberian Husky or you shiver at the thought of walking your dog during a flurry, our coldest season surely comes with many challenges. Cold, dry air can be as bad for your dog's coat and skin as it is for your own skin. Repeatedly walking on snow and ice and then entering a warm, dry home can lead to cracked paw pads—not to mention discomfort. Even the outdoor products that some people use to combat the elements can cause problems for pets.
You don't have to keep your pet inside to keep him clean and safe during the winter; you simply need to keep up with his grooming.
A Warm Winter Bath
Deciding when and how often to give your dog a bath in the winter can be confusing. Sanded walkways and streets lead to grimy paws, but you may be worried that a winter bath isn't good for your pet. Rest assured that you can—and should—bathe your dog during the winter months just as frequently as you do during the warmer seasons. Some owners even groom their dogs more in the winter to keep them smelling their best because everyone spends so much time indoors. The most important thing is to make sure that your dog stays warm both during and after bathing. He should be thoroughly dry before heading back outside.
Don't Brush Aside Grooming!
It is also essential to keep up with brushing during the winter months, especially if your dog has long or thick hair. Snow has a knack for creating new mats and worsening any tangles that were already present. If you normally brush your dog weekly, you might want to increase the frequency to twice a week when there's snow on the ground.
A Haircut for All Seasons
If you keep your dog's coat trimmed during the other three seasons, it is perfectly fine to continue his clipping schedule throughout the winter. If you're concerned that he'll be too cold outdoors, invest in a canine winter coat for his trips outside. Skipping haircuts until spring will only increase the chance of those mats forming. Plus, a trimmed coat will cut down on the amount of snow that clings to your pet's fur when he ventures outdoors.
Products That Help
Combat your dog's dry skin by using a moisturizing shampoo during bath time, and be sure to rinse it thoroughly from his coat. A canine conditioner can also help keep his hair and skin soft during the winter. To protect your dog's paw pads from cracking, apply paw wax before you head out for a walk. This smart product acts as a barrier, preventing that burning sensation that results from stepping on ice with bare paws. Paw wax also helps prevent dogs from slipping on icy sidewalks.
Ice-melting products like salt are commonly used during the winter, but remember to buy a pet-friendly brand. In addition to hurting their paw pads, these toxic products can be inadvertently ingested when dogs groom themselves. Even if you use a pet-safe brand on your property, remember that your dog can pick up chemicals anywhere else he walks. Just to be safe, keep paw wipes on hand to wipe away any chemicals when you return from your wintry strolls.
Tammy Gagne is a freelance writer who specializes in the health and behavior of companion animals. A two-time Dog Writers Association of America writing competition nominee, she has written more than pet care books for adults and children. She lives in New England with her husband, son, and myriad furry and feathered creatures.