How do you keep your little dog happy in the winter?
February 10, 2017 1:53 PM   Subscribe

We have a sweet little pup who doesn't do well in the cold, and we've moved from a warm climate to a wintry one. How can I keep him happy and fulfilled during a long winter?

Our little guy came to us off of the street as a likely abused stray. He didn't like walks and was even scared of his leash and collar, but after a few years of effort he's greatly rehabilitated and now loves walks (hooray!) But he is a wee little ten pound creature with a thin coat and not much meat on his bones. Despite putting him in layers (sweater and overcoat) he gets quite cold and shivery when we're out in the many months long winter.

I try to take him for a short walk and he initially seems happy but quickly seems so cold and resigned (and rapidly loses weight) that it seems to not be worth it. But a couple of hours later, he seems to forget that the weather is crummy and is again disappointed that we're not going for a walk. I have thought about taking him on a few very short walks per day but he gets pretty dirty and wet so I bathe him when we're back, which seems excessive to do multiple times per day. (NB: He has a clean bill of health from the vet and we increase his food during the winter to keep a bit of insulation on him, but he it seems the extra metabolic activity can drop his weight fairly quickly).

I've tried boots/shoes but he wouldn't move with them on. He had a raincoat but it didn't do much. I've tried carrying an umbrella, but he is so small and low to the ground that he just gets wet and cold no matter what. I knit him a scarf but it didn't stay on and he'd trip over it.

He has been showing more interest in his stuffed animals so we're playing with those more now, but they seem to pale in comparison to going for a w-a-l-k. Our other dog had some treat-finding puzzles, but this guy isn't interested in those games.

Any suggestions for him? Are there hats with earflaps for dogs? Wetsuits? A dogbrella? Should I get him a treadmill, or walk him in the weather despite it seeming kind of detrimental to him? I have seen the RuffWear dog jackets but they are out of my price range. Our other dog was a border collie, who was happy to run ten miles in the sun or sleet and would go crazy without that activity, so I don't know if our little guy now is suffering being relatively cooped up during this long, dark season! He is getting lots of snuggles and tummy scratching to make up for the reduction in walks, but he still seems disappointed. And because he was scared of walks for so long, I hate to deprive him anymore of that supreme dog joy, except that it seems detrimental to his health in winter! Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
posted by stillmoving to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Caveat: I am not a dog owner. Would he enjoy being carried in a warm bundle after the point where he starts shivering? Maybe some of what he enjoys about walks is the sights and smells. You could get a little blanket to wrap him up in and continue the walk for a while.
posted by purple_bird at 1:59 PM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, how is he about being carried? My friend has two dogs, one a lab that happily bounds about in the snow and one who is seven pounds of chi attitude and toenails who likes the snow but does get cold fairly quickly. Often we end up tucking him into someone's bosom so that he can stay out with the lab (he does NOT like it if the lab goes out without him). We sort of swaddle him in a scarf, as well.

Also, you might try for a longer period with the boots. Most dogs haaaaaate them (check youtube for "dogs vs. booties") but most of them can also eventually be coaxed into walking in them.
posted by praemunire at 2:09 PM on February 10, 2017

he gets pretty dirty and wet so I bathe him when we're back

Not a direct answer to the issue, and it 100% depends on the type of dog/coat, but most of the time, this is not great for them. Even once a day is (again, usually) excessive. My dog loves a thorough toweling-off and it gets her clean and dry enough that she doesn't ruin anything. Should make multiple short walks easier.

Our small dog also hates her boots and needs some time to get reacclimated to walking in them every winter, but it's really necessary with salt on the sidewalks-- it makes the snowmelt colder.

Can you increase the food more? Maybe one with a higher fat content? Or just add olive oil to it. Talk to vet first, of course.
posted by supercres at 2:33 PM on February 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a 6lb dog who is also thin and not so hairy.

She uses a potty. Essentially a cat litter container from the dollar store lined with a puppy pad. The potty is inside. She is pleased with this arrangement and will go outside when it's warmer but has no interest now.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:43 PM on February 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

do you live in an urban area where there is a lot of rock salt on roads or sidewalks where you walk your pupper?!

We gave up on coats etc. and boots made no difference. Our way to lessening the unpleasantness on our dogs (one a wee one who is very picky about everything) is Mushers Secret rubbed on their paw pads

Picky dog is still weeny in the snow but this definitely helps. Our dog walker told us about Mushers - the rock salt is killer on their paws and stings like hell!
posted by floweredfish at 2:56 PM on February 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

With the shoes - this might sound mean but could you just put them on him and leave them on to give him time to get used to them?
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:20 PM on February 10, 2017

Ps. Meant to add that Mushers doesn't stain rugs or leave greasy prints on wood.
posted by floweredfish at 3:24 PM on February 10, 2017

Do you live in a place that has indoor doggy playgroups? Or, is there an indoor location where you can walk him?
I'd also try carrying him outside if he's tolerant of that. Stop and offer things to smell and investigate and he may get the outdoor fun while staying warm and bundled next to your body.
posted by quince at 4:04 PM on February 10, 2017

Yeah, you need to have Indoor Booties Time where pup is wearing the dreaded booties but is also safely inside and praised and cuddled and given treats to demonstrate how great life is when one is wearing weird unfamiliar things on one's innocent lil feeties.
posted by poffin boffin at 4:04 PM on February 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

One thing that has helped my dog not shiver so much in the winter is a headband I crocheted him that goes over his ears. Since you're a knitter, you might try the same thing. Basically, I crocheted (with mostly wool yarn) a headband that is wide and long enough to cover his ears then tapered on the ends that tie under his chin. I added braided yarn to the pointed ends so it can tie under his chin. You could probably just make a long rectangle and add ties to the ends. It covers his head like a bonnet and really seems to help.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 5:00 PM on February 10, 2017

When the elderly Papillon my folks had got tired mid-walk, they'd carry her using a front loading carrier thing that straps to the human's belly (like a baby carrier). Papillon loved it and maybe there are versions that keep a little dog extra warm.
posted by sacchan at 5:09 PM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

My dogs enjoy a drive with the windows cracked. I can expose them to lots of good smells to keep their minds busy when it isn't good walking weather.
posted by LikeaDogwithTwoTails at 5:25 PM on February 10, 2017

There is such a thing as a dog stroller. I bought one as a gift for a relative with a dog too old and fragile to go for walks and also made a rice pad for the seating compartment. (When you microwave a cloth bag of rice it stays warm for quite a while; the idea was to make a heating pad for cold days.)
posted by lakeroon at 6:15 PM on February 10, 2017

This article convinced me that my small dog doesn't need boots in the snow, so that's one less thing you have to worry about wrestling on him. These are the things that I do to keep my high energy, small and very skinny dog exercised in the winter:

-We go mall walking, or walk around big stores like Target. This is great because there are so many new smells and new people to meet, and, as a bonus, I get to do some errands!
-My dog is not so interested in puzzle toys, but I've put treats in an empty cereal box or paper towel tube and taped it shut. It takes her a while to chew it open, and she seems to be tired out after
-Trick training sessions tend to tire her out the same way a walk does
posted by peacebone at 11:37 PM on February 11, 2017

I think people put those dog boots on partly to protect their feet from rock salt.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:52 PM on February 11, 2017

Thank you all for the suggestions! I am happy to have a few more tricks in the arsenal.

(BTW: I haven't been washing the pup multiple times per day...only rinsing him off when he's dirty, so limiting that to once per day.)
posted by stillmoving at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2017

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