Dogs In Snow, Let’s Go!

In much of the country, winter mean snow. Here’s how to keep your dog safe when the snow falls:

Dogs, like kids, get excited when they see white. It’s wet, it’s fluffy, it’s cool to the touch. Don’t take it personally if your dog doesn’t listen to your directions very well. He’s just having… well, fun! Pure unadulterated joy, and that is as it should be. Don’t let your frustration creep up and get the better of you or your dog will have just one more reason to keep his distance.

To avoid being a wet blanket (no pun intended), think Yum, Run and Hide. If you’re loaded with treats like a human Pez dispenser, a quick shake of the container will attract your wanna-be sled dog. Yum! Try racing around, kicking up snow and tossing snowballs in the air. Run! Your dog will excited by your enthusiasm. He’ll stay close and watch you for clues—what next? If the snow is deep and clingy enough, hide behind a drift or snow-laden bush. Call your dog’s name as you run and hide. Combine this game with the shaking treat cup and it’s a sure-fire winner; a game the whole family can play.

Now think about where your wet blanket instincts may have lead you: staring at your dog and shouting “COME” repeatedly at the top of your lungs. Bo-ring. Your dog is like a little kid—especially when the snow falls. Toss off that wet blanket and explore the fun that awaits you!

OK, now that I’ve got everyone revved up, let me offer a few warnings. If you’re playing in an unconfined area close to roadways, you may need to keep your dog leashed. When possible, use a long line (25-50’). Hook a leash onto the very end of it and let it go. Your dog will feel like he’s free, but you’ll have a handle on him should he stray or bolt. Keep your eyes open though: a long line can get tangled around things, especially feet. Make sure youngsters are agile enough to jump-the-rope if necessary.

Excitement can cause predatory behavior in young or untrained dogs. This may lead to combat postures and the clothing grab. If this sounds familiar, do not exercise your dog with young children. Instead, focus your dog’s attention on large balls or empty gallon jugs. Pack a spray bottle or small mouth spray to defend yourself if you catch your dog running too fast in your direction.

I strongly suggest that you call a trainer to get a handle on your pooch before he hurts someone–by accident or intent. Dogs should never be confrontational in their relationship to humans.

Finally, beware of ice. Ice cuts are the number one cause of emergencies in temperate conditions. While snow can be a blast, if there is a sudden freeze it can conceal a layer of ice that can rip into your dog’s foot pad like a sharpened butcher knife.

As I write this piece, I’m watching my three kids–two human, one dog–making snow angels in our front yard. The resulting forms are all shaped very differently and some require a bit of creative interpretation…but they all look like angels to me.