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Walking dogs in the snow — 6 essential safety tips

Dog walking in snow
Dog walking in snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Walking your dog in the snow can seem challenging during winter — as much as keeping cats out of the Christmas tree — especially when you have freezing temperatures, ice and shorter days to contend with. For those who enjoy walking dogs in the snow, you’ll need to know these essential safety tips and precautions.

Pooches generally love the snow and are adaptable to colder temperatures. What's more, walking is a great form of exercise and gets them fit and healthy. However, before you set out on your winter walks, there are some essential safety tips to protect your pooch in the snow.  Follow this useful advice to make walking dogs in the snow more safe and fun for everyone this season. 

1.  Protect paws 

Dog wearing boots in the snow

Dog wearing boots in the snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Dashing through the snow can expose your pooch’s paws to ice balls, melting salts, and harmful chemicals — not to mention frostbite. Protect paws with winter dog booties or rubber boots to prevent icy particles and snow forming between toes and the pads of their paws. We recommend the Breathable Dog Walking Shoes ($21, Amazon) or the Pawz Waterproof Dog Boots ($14, Chewy) to protect wet paws. 

If you have a fussy pup who doesn’t like wearing anything on their feet, you can coat paws with a protective wax-cream, such as Paw Pad Protection Balm ($11.99, Amazon) instead. Just remember to wipe your pooch’s paws thoroughly before going back indoors.  

2.  Wrap pups up warm  

Dog in sweater in the snow

Dog in sweater in the snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While most dogs cope pretty well in the cold, there are certain small breeds that are susceptible to colder temperatures. These include pups with short coats or those with low body fat. 

Protect pups with a water-resistant coat or sweater to keep them extra warm and to prevent them from shivering during winter walks. We recommend the Jecikelon Pet Dog Clothes ($9, Amazon) if you need inspiration. 

3.  Keep pups on a leash in the snow

Dog on a leash walking in the snow

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While dogs love nothing more than to run around and frolic in the snow, there are a number of dangerous things to be mindful of. Besides slipping and falling, our excitable canines could unwittingly run into frozen lakes or pools of water and risk falling through the ice. 

It’s always best to keep dogs on a leash while walking through snow, and keep to plowed sidewalks to avoid hidden dangers. 

4. Keep dogs away from antifreeze, salt and other dangerous chemicals

Paw print in the snow

Paw print in the snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s common for salt or antifreeze to be used to melt ice on the ground, however these toxic chemicals could be fatal for dogs if ingested. Antifreeze in particular has a sweet taste that can attract pups, so avoid walking through areas with puddles of spilled-over antifreeze, and rinse their paws as soon as you get in. This is to prevent them from licking their paws and ingesting harmful chemicals. 

Similarly, salt grit used to dissolve snow can irritate your dog’s skin, and may cause burns on paws after prolonged contact. 

5.  Don’t let your pooch eat the snow

Dog eating snow

Dog eating snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Although it may be tempting for your pooch to munch on the appealing snow, this could be dangerous for their health. Not only can it lower the body's temperature which can cause serious hypothermia, but it can also contain sharp objects or harmful chemicals, such as melting salt. 

6.  Limit the time when walking your dog in the snow

Dog running with stick in mouth

Dog running with stick in mouth (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have a daily routine, limit the amount of time you spend walking in the snow with your pooch. This will prevent frostbite, hypothermia or any other consequences of exposure to cold air. In addition, always look out for signs of anxious behavior, including whining, stopping, slowing down or excessive shivering. 

If you do notice any of these, you should head back indoors immediately, and keep towels by the door to dry them off thoroughly. What’s more, dogs with specific health conditions such as thyroid disease or chronic lung problems, should have limited exposure during winter walks.

In addition, always carry a flashlight with you during walks. As the days grow darker much earlier, a flashlight will be helpful in times of low visibility or extreme weather conditions.  

How long can I walk my dog in the winter?

Woman walking dog in the snow

Woman walking dog in the snow (Image credit: Shutterstock)

During colder months, most healthy medium or large dogs can walk for 30 minutes in temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, while smaller pups should ideally walk from 15 to 20 minutes if the temperature is between 20 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, if it's below 0 degrees, it’s advisable not to walk your dog at all to avoid hypothermia.

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!