(PULEEZE let us in!)
All my fur siblings and I were born and raised in Oklahoma, home of the nuttiest weather known to dogkind. Last fall, my parents uprooted us from our long time home and brought us to live in the Texas panhandle, where the weather really isn’t much better. So it crossed my mind to chat with you today about dogs and weather.
One thing people must understand—although we descended from wild animals, we dogs are now domesticated. We are NOT equipped to deal with the extremes of weather. We depend on our humans to protect us from the elements just as we need you for food and companionship.
While it is true that some dogs are better able to withstand cold, like my grouchy husky/malamute mix brother, there is no dog who is immune to severe winter weather. Cold, snow, freezing rain, and cutting wind can injure or kill even the “arctic” type of dogs; the unfortunate death of an Iditarod participant dog tethered outside in a snowstorm earlier this year illustrates this point perfectly. When Old Man Winter shows up in earnest, we dogs need to be in the house with our humans.
There are some dogs who live outside—I myself was an outdoor dog for part of my life and I suffered no lasting ill from it. If you must keep a dog outside, you must take serious precautions for that dog’s well-being in harsh winter weather. Every outside dog needs a dog house. That dog house should be big enough to allow the dog easy access, but small enough to hold in the dog’s own body heat to help with warming. It’s always a nice touch to give an outside dog a nice blanket or doggy bed to help with comfort and warmth. Try to position your dog’s house so that the doorway is protected from blowing snow and rain—the nicest dog house is rendered useless if it is full of sleet and snow. Some people actually use heaters or light bulbs to add warmth to a dog house; the sentiment is appreciated but these things can present such a fire hazard! Be very sure you are properly using any electric devices to warm your dog’s house. Bottom line—when it’s so cold you need to use a heater, the dog needs to come in the human house!
In very cold weather, humans must be sure to provide their outside dogs with a ready supply of drinking water. Remember, that nice bowl of water you set out for your dog can quickly freeze into a big lump of ice. Likewise, dog food placed outside in a doggy dish can quickly freeze to the bowl if any moisture is added to the equation. Be sure your dog can actually get at the food you leave for him.
Even “indoor” dogs can have trouble in extreme winter weather; after all, we have to go outside from time to time for potty purposes. Those quick dashes outside can make us mighty chilly! A corgi usually has a nice coat that makes us good to go for short jaunts outside in the bitter cold, but we worry about our short-haired siblings. My fur-sister Lucy the beagle gets really cold because her coat is thin and not all that protective (I’m a bit humiliated to admit that my parents put a sweater on Lucy when it is super cold—I just walk on and pretend I don’t know her. Come on, girl, thicken up your own coat, okay?)
Ice and snow can be rough on dog feet. Where we come from, ice can be thick and hard and bumpy and can even rub or cut our foot pads. Some stuff humans put out to melt snow and ice can also be an irritant to our feet, not to mention that it can be potentially poisonous. My sister Sadie sometimes gets ice packed in between her toes when she stays outside too long—be sure to check for that on your dog, too!
After your dogs have been outside in the cold and snow, a nice rub-down with a towel or rag is always appreciated. Take this time to inspect our feet for injuries, ice clumps, or foreign objects that might be harmful to us. (I’ve also been known to smuggle in a contraband icicle; my parents seem to think it’s good to take those away so they don’t melt in the floor; I personally feel it borders on theft.)
Some dogs live in areas where the summer weather isn’t such a problem, but where I’ve always lived, summer heat can be just as problematic as that harsh winter. When the mercury soars, we dogs can be at risk of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke, just like humans. Once again, outdoor dogs should be monitored very carefully in hot weather. Make sure they have plenty of shade and cool water to drink. Don’t be surprised if your dog digs more during hot weather; it is a perfectly natural dog behavior to turn over dirt in search of a cool spot.
Some pet parents will give their doggies a little pool of water to splash in during very hot weather. This is a really nice touch, but be sure the pool size is appropriate for your dog—little tiny dogs can get in deeper water and find themselves unable to get out. Also, shallow water can heat up fast in the sun; be sure the water is cool before you let us in to swim. Our neighbor dog Dexter’s parents made him some kind of a spraying contraption that they turn on so he can play. He looks really strange jumping and snapping at the water, but he seems to be having a great time.
Of course it should go without saying that you should NEVER EVER EVER leave your dogs in a vehicle when it is hot. Because of all the windows in a vehicle, the interior of can heat up much faster than the outside air, making the vehicle into a virtual oven. Leaving a window cracked or even rolled down is often not enough to protect a dog from the murderous effects of a vehicle in the heat. Be on the safe side and just NEVER EVER EVER leave us in the car.
My final topic today is storms…the thunder type storm, I mean. Having lived all my life in “tornado alley” I’ve seen my share of big storms and I don’t tend to be overly upset about them. Some dogs, however, like my neurotic sister Sadie, get totally freaked out when a thunderstorm approaches. Be aware of your dogs’ storm-temperament and do what you can to relieve the stress of a pet who is worried about bad weather. Our friends have a very storm-scared dog who wears one of those thunder shirts—her pet parents say it really does seem to help calm her down.
If the weather gets so bad you have to take your tornado precautions, don’t forget us dogs! When those tornado sirens wail, my parents stuff all us dogs in the little bathroom; I really hate that, but I understand they are doing it so that we are out of harm’s way. Be sure your pets are wearing ID when a storm comes along; if the worst happens and a storm should separate us from our humans, we are much more likely to be reunited if we have our ID on us…come to think of it, that’s a pretty good recommendation for you humans too!
Personally, I say the best place for a dog during any type of inclement weather is right there on the couch beside our humans. I figure if you’re comfortable, I’m comfortable.
(Seriously??? I am SOOOO embarrassed for her.)