It’s snowy – yucky, rainy, cold…stay inside, keep pooch snuggled on the bed, right? No! Get out there in the elements! (Yes, that’s my pooch Monkey the greyhound in the lower right-hand corner dwarfed by that mound of snow.)

Park Slope, Brooklyn

Most importantly, pooch needs it. A little rain, snow, or cold weather doesn’t stop you from needing to go to the gym, does it? (Though you might wish it did.) Neither did it stop wolves from needing to track and hunt 30,000 years ago (in fact inclimate weather historically increased calorie loss and hence need to find sustenance); and it doesn’t stop them from needing the exercise, stimulation, and physical and mental release nowadays in the big city any more than it did back then.

Aren’t our little babies cold, though? That’s what coats are for! But remember, your pooch is already wearing a full-length leather coat, and on top of that a fur coat! Different breeds, of course, need different levels of protection from the elements: my greyhounds, for instance, are among the worst-dressed winter dogs, with their short hair, paper-thin skin, and not an ounce of fat to burn. So we bundle up most times when we wander. But dogs don’t feel cold in the way we humans do, so don’t worry if you’re just running out for a bit and can’t find her coat; again, she’s already wearing a very nice one.

In fact, the main reason I use coats is to temper and control the dogs’ energy. I’ve found that they tend to get hyper, spinning and running around, when they feel the cold (excitement and joy, yes, but probably also a natural reaction to try and keep the body temperature up). I make sure to give them exercise – on long hikes, and running and playing at the dog park – but keeping them calm at other times is first of all a safety issue when they’re offleash (they’re not going to tear off into the streeet), and also keeps interactions with other dogs and humans on a nice, calm, peaceful note. Calm energy, happy submission and obedience, rewarded by play and socialization – that’s the formula!
What about their little tender paws, in the snow, ice, and salt? Most can handle it just fine, for short periods of time: just like his leather coat, your dog is already wearing leather boots. But care is required: clean off ice-balls regularly, and when you get back home. Salt is very bad for paws but not as big a deal as some owners make it out to be. I don’t find booties necessary for my dogs, though they may be for some; all I do is when I see them limping from having stepped on a rocks of salt that sticks to their pads, I lift their paw up and wipe it. They’re good to go immediately! What you want to look out for is leaving salt for more than a couple minutes on the pad; it can actually eat away the pad and skin and cause a wound that can lead to infection. But you don’t have to worry about this happening in just a block or two. Again, clean with a wet towel and dry off after you get home.
Leash ’em up, and let it snow!

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