Here are my top tips to help you and your fur baby enjoy winter walks.
When it comes to the weather we enjoy, we're all different.
Some people love the cold, others love the heat, and many people love those perfect in-between days where it's not too hot or too cold.
And I'm sure you'll agree that getting out for a walk with our dogs on those perfect days is easy. The sun is shining (but not too harshly), the wind is gentle (not blowing a gale), and there's not a rain cloud in sight.
Unfortunately, in the middle of winter, these perfect days are almost non-existent. It's cold, it's windy, and it's rainy.
As a professional dog walker, I've had a few people ask me about walking their dog in the rain. They want to know if it's safe and if it's going to cause their dog to become sick.
So, let's explore how to walk your dog in the rain during winter safely.
Let's quickly clear up one misconception about walking your dog in the rain
It may surprise some people, but the rain itself isn't the issue here. Technically, it is just water that's falling from the sky and no different from your dog having a bath.
And honestly, the rainwater is usually much cleaner than the old lake, river or damn some dogs jump into for a swim. I'm sure some of you with dogs like retrievers know what I'm talking about!
It's the puddles that get left behind by the rain that cause more of an issue for our beloved dogs.
Animal droppings and dirt can fester in puddles of water, becoming a breeding ground for all sorts of bacteria and microorganisms. When our dogs walk through the water, these microorganisms can burrow through your dog's skin or attached to their coats and get licked.
Some of these germs (Giardia, for example) can infect our dogs.
Also, puddles on driveways may contain oil or antifreeze from leaky car engines, so be careful your dog doesn't try and drink from them.
The top 5 ways to handle walking in the rain with your dog during winter
1. Be realistic but keep it up
Our dogs love routine. And they love spending time with us. Whether that's cuddling on the couch or going out for their daily walk, they love the interaction.
If your dog is used to daily walks, winter and rainy days shouldn't be any different; you just need to plan it a bit more. Judging on the rain, storm or wind etc., work out how far you can walk, how long you can stand being outside and what the path is like. Then rug up and set off.
Winter walks are also great for keeping off those winter kilos that can sneak up on dogs and owners alike!
2. Adjust your walking track
If you often walk around footy ovals or dirt tracks, it's wise to avoid these areas on a rainy winter's day. Instead, you should try to stick to firm paths (concrete, footpaths etc.) where you're less likely to slip over or return home with super muddy and dirty feet.
Heavy tree-lined streets are perfect for rainy days as they offer some protection from the downfalls. If you're lucky enough to live close to a tree-lined walking track, drive to that location and enjoy a walk with your dog.
Not only do the trees offer some protection from the rain, but they also smell amazing!
3. Pop on a jacket – you and your dog
When it's raining, you're likely to reach for your raincoat before heading out. You should do the same with your dog, especially if they're short-haired, as they have little protection from the cold rain and wind.
If you're worried about dirty or wet feet (especially if you're in an area with loads of puddles), you can also buy doggy rain boots. Once they get the hang of walking in them, they'll look like the fashionistas of the neighbourhood!
When you arrive home (if you're dogs not sporting stylish boots), make sure you wash off any mud from their paws and thoroughly dry them to help them retain their body heat.
4. Know your dog
Some dogs, especially as they get older, may be more than happy to stay indoors on freezing, rainy days. Or they may be more than pleased with a short stroll around the block to take in the smells, leave their scent and then return home to the warmth of the heater and their bed.
You're their owner, and you know them the best. However, if you see signs that they're in distress when walking or feeling hypothermic (shivering, shallow breathing or cognitive decline), make sure you seek professional advice.
On days of extreme temperatures, you can always swap your walk for some playtime inside.
5. Hire a professional dog walker
I get that not everyone loves the idea of walking in the rain. Sure, they make it out to be a highly romantic thing in most movies, but honestly, it's usually not like that! I mean, honestly, you can't walk in the rain and expect to have perfect hair and unsmudged makeup, can you?
But as a professional dog walker, I enjoy getting out and about because I know my fur clients love the exercise. So a bit of rain doesn't stop me from doing my job and working with your fur babies.
So, if you'd prefer to stay home and warm on winter rainy days (who wouldn't!), hiring a dog walker is the way to go.
Final quick tips on walking your dog in the rain
If you've got any more ideas, tips or tricks about walking your dog in the rain, I'd love for you to share them below. And please feel free to share this with any fellow dog parents who may benefit from this info.
Here's a quick recap about walking your dog in the rain:
Plan your route
Put on your raincoats (and doggy boots!)
Shorten your walk
Wash paws and thoroughly dry off when you get home
Keep your dog on a leash
Find a tree-lined path for some rain protection
Let your dog's behaviour guide you
Hire a professional dog walker