Cold Weather Running with Your Dog
By Gale Bernhardt
Dogs can be great running companions, even in cold weather and snow. Generally, if your dog runs with you in warm conditions, they can run in winter conditions as well. Some breeds are obviously much better equipped for cold conditions due to their thick fur coats; but just because your dog does not sport a thick fur coat, it doesn't mean Fido is stuck indoors.
Several manufacturers make coats and booties to help your dog stay warm and to protect their paws. For the torso there is a range of clothing, just like for humans. There are light sweaters, fleece, fleece-lined jackets with a breathable shell and neoprene coats for hunting dogs that are in cold water. There is fashion clothing and performance gear. Your choice of jacket will depend on the dog breed, the age of the dog (older dogs are more sensitive to cold weather), the weather conditions and how long you expect to be out on the run.
For Fido's Feet
Weather and the length of the run are also factors in deciding about proper footwear for your dog. Properly fit dog booties can protect the paws from extended time on snow and ice or rocky trails. Be sure the booties aren't too small for your dog, and allow their toes to spread out on impact. It's just as important that the booties aren't too large, because your dog won't get proper traction.
Be cautious about how tight you secure the boot closure strap. You don't want the strap so tight that it rubs your dog's leg raw or cuts off circulation to the paw. Keep an eye on your dog during the run to be sure a bootie does not become loose or lost in the snow.
Some booties do well on snow, but aren't so good on rocky trails. Some booties are suited for walking, but aren't very good for running because of the slick soles. Ask the clerk if the booties have soles that grip well in snow. If you find that the booties you purchased don't do well in snow and you don't want to return them, you can improvise. A home-made solution to improve the gripping surface of the booties is to put a thin and even layer of shoe glue on the bottom of each bootie, then dip the wet surface in sand. Allow the glue to fully dry before you head outdoors.
No Booties? No Problem!
Some dogs refuse to wear booties. While not as protective, another option is to use a wax-based paw protector such as Musher's Secret. The product gives pads some protection and keeps snow from collecting on the fur between your dog's toes. You can also use this product or a similar product throughout the winter to keep your dog's pads from getting dry and cracked.
If your dog has a lot of fur between the toes, you can clip some of this fur to minimize the formation of snowballs between toes.
After each cold-weather run, inspect your dog's legs and paws for damage. If your dog does not wear booties, be sure to rinse your dog's feet. Some de-icing products used on streets and sidewalks can damage pads and are toxic if your dog licks his or her paws. Have a container of warm water sitting in your garage. When you return from the run, you can immediately rinse chemicals, mud and ice off of the paws and towel dry each foot.
Thaw a Raw Paw
Just like humans, dogs can experience frostbite to feet, nose and ears. Frost-bitten skin appears red, gray or whitish. If you suspect frostbite, be sure to slowly warm frostbitten areas with your hands or use warm towels. Once the areas look pink again, see your veterinarian.
If your dog is doing a lot of outdoor activity in the cold weather, you may need to increase their food. Watch to see if your dog is losing weight or losing energy. If their fur starts looking dull, talk to your veterinarian about fatty acid supplements.
If you're carrying water and fuel for yourself, be sure there is water available for your dog. Depending on the length of the run, you may want to consider carrying treats for your dog as well.
This will not be my first winter running with my dogs. They don't seem to mind putting on the jackets. They know a jacket means outdoor adventure and no more being cooped up in the house. I'll admit they aren't thrilled about wearing dog shoes--and the booties cause them to walk like a flamingo until we get outdoors. But once outside, the business of fun begins, and they don't notice the booties at all.
Get you and your dog geared up for cold weather and go enjoy all the snow!
Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, clickhere. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.
This article originally appeared on Active.com—your source for event information, training plans, expert advice, and everything you need to connect with the sport you love.