This morning we woke up to single digit temperatures in Central Oregon. For those of us with dogs in our lives, winter means the enjoyment of cold weather adventures. When the temperatures really start to drop, winter also brings on many questions. Questions like, “How do I know when my dog is cold? At what point should I consider using boots to protect my four legged friends paws? Does my dog need a jacket?”
We asked those same questions to our pack here at Ruffwear to see what this seasoned group of cold weather enthusiasts could share. The first thing that became clear to us is that all dogs are very different. Some breeds and mixes do better in the cold weather, while others need a little extra attention and care. That seems pretty common sense right?! The key is to know your dog well enough to know when they are giving you signs that they are uncomfortable.
Our goal is to make products that allow you to extend your adventures year round – and to make sure that you are doing so safely and comfortably.
Here are some thoughts from the Ruffwear Pack:
Lindsey – Kaya is always stoked to be in the snow, so it’s pretty easy to gauge her comfort level…
No smile, sitting or laying down in the snow while we are on the move, or lagging behind probably means she is tired, cold, has snowballs on her fur, or all of the above. In that case, I’ll assess the situation and see how I can help.
If she is tired, I’ll make sure there is a good, packed down track for her to follow in the snow and encourage her to use it.
If she is cold, I’ll either put a Cloud Chaser on her (also good for preventing snowballs!) or lay something on the snow for her to rest on.
If she has snowballs, that means I didn’t plan well enough… Prevention is key. The Cloud Chaser works well to keep the snowballs from building up on her belly and armpits. If I know the moisture content of the snow is high and likely to ball up on her fur, I’ll spray Pam or something similar on her. The snowballs just slide off! But be prepared to wash the dog soon thereafter… The oils can go rancid!
Patrick - How can you tell when your dog is cold?
Mavis show signs that she is cold by putting her tail between her legs, hunched shoulders, lifting paws and shivering. Gordo tucks his nose under his tail when sleeping but he has been sleeping outside in 4 degree Fahrenheit.
- At what point do you consider using boots?
For balling, we watch for snow packing or balling between the paw pads that cause irritation or pain. This typically happens when the water content of the snow and outdoor temperature reaches a crux. It seems to be a function of dew point and can happen with warmer and colder temperatures. As we travel to different locations the snow conditions change drastically, Sierra Cement vs. Wasatch powder, so being prepared and reading clues from your dog while being aware of changing conditions allow us to maximize our days on varying conditions. Ice slab, sun crust and deep powder all present different challenges. Ice slab can frost bite and cause pads to crack, sun crust can be crystalized and abrasive for paws, deep powder balls up and causes irritation and bleeding paws between the toes.
- How do you extend your adventures with confidence that your four-legged companion is comfortable and having fun?
I believe as we spend time with our four legged friends we become aware of subtle indicators. The way our dogs carry themselves combined with their activity level, all are actions that help me to read their comfort and motivation. Making sure the activity level and comfort continue to be fun and engaging is based on continuous observation. We are only as fast as our slowest trail companion.
Lauren – We use boots when it’s under 20 degrees. I don’t want his feet to ‘burn’ or stick to the icy ground.
Vince – The Grip Trex boots come out when Seppi does the cold ground dance. He lifts his feet up one at a time off the ground showing obvious signs of discomfort. He has very short hair and is thankful for a coat when we are in between activities. Our Australian Shepherd, Maddie, tends to get snowballs in between her paw pads – which are very painful. She constantly stops to try to chew out from between her toes. She gets boots for really long snow outings.
We would also love to hear from you!
How do you know when your dog is cold? What signs do they give you that let you know they are getting uncomfortable?