Dogs and cold weather

belted-dogsSo, the weather is getting colder. Dogs, like us, can acclimate to the weather change and handle it well. Especially when walking. Leaving your dog tied up outside is another thing, and they would need the proper shelter in order to survive our cold Illinois winters. I, personally, don’t like the idea of leaving dogs outside, unsupervised, for a long time (or overnight especially! BURR) but my dogs do get used to the cold and enjoy an afternoon playing outside on those more mild sunny days. But even on the most frigid days we are out there walking. Our dogs can tolerate any weather we can tolerate. The only thing I’ve noticed is that at 10 degrees above zero, something happens with the salt and the cold, and my dogs’ feet seem to start to burn. I know this because above 10 degrees they walk normally but below that magic number they start to pick up their feet in a way that seems to suggest they are really hurting. If I had the luxury of sidewalks I’d use them, but where I live there are no sidewalks so we walk on the street.

So, I have a rule – no walks if the weather gets below 10 above zero. When it gets that cold I don’t want to be out there either and so we do more inside. A treadmill walk is wonderful and you can find many used ones on Craig’s List. I put my guys on the treadmill for 25 minutes each (while I knit!) on those freezing cold days. But any other day, they and I are out there for our full walk. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll come to tolerate the cold. Just wear something over your face and head and good boots on your feet. And also, pay attention to your dog. She may have a higher sensitivity to cold or her feet may be more tender. Then my dogs. If that is the case, you may have a different “cut off” number than I do.

muttluks dog bootsAlso, there are dog booties out there to help protect more sensitive feet. My favorite are called Muttluks and can be found at Amazon. They are sturdy, stay on great, and last. Don’t go with cheap dog booties if you are really looking for something to stay on your dog’s feet and keep them protected from the salt and cold. These boots really work. Yes they are more pricey but I walk my dogs every day and I had a set that lasted, sadly, longer than the dog who wore them. My guys now spend so much time outside all year round that they have tougher feet than my dear Sadie did, living in the city with me. But she loved her boots and wore them easily. The Muttluks website has a list of frequently asked questions that explain how to size your dog’s feet and how to acclimate them to wearing the boots. And you will have a good long laugh when you put them on your dog’s feet – my dogs both lifted their feet VERY high into the air and walked very deliberately when they first had them on!! Very funny.

So, don’t worry about the cold weather that is on the way – just keep walking and you and your dogs will get used to the cold together. And wear the proper gear and everyone will be happy!

A little puppy Sugar

Here we have a note on puppy Sugar from Willow‘s group…

Sugar is doing great, she plays real hard and then crashes for a couple hours. She has had a few accidents in the house and I don’t know if she knows how to let me know when she needs to go potty. I’ve been reading on your website about cleaning with the natures cure (actually the product is Natures Miracle …and it is!)  and I will try that, because she definitely goes to the same spots where she went before. I have a silly question that maybe you can help with. She loves to go out for a walk on the leash but it takes us an hour just to go down one block because she stops and stiffs and trys to eat flowers, plants and other things she shouldn’t. How do we get her away form these things, I don’t want to pull her so I usually run a little to distract her, if you have any tips that would be great.


I am so happy things continue to go well! Yea!!

You know, some people have found that putting a bell or a small wind chime on the door for the dog to ring works…you teach them to ring it by making sure it is at “nose” level and then you ring it every time you take her out. Within about 2 weeks she will get the hang of it and ring it when she wants to go! Then you must always let her out when she rings, even if she was just out, just so she makes the connection. Then after a few weeks of that you can be sure she understands it. It is a pretty cool way to have your dog let you know she needs to potty without barking at you.

About the walking…puppies are like kids – they need to explore to understand their world. This exploration also helps their brains develop, so don’t be so quick to shut this down. Try to make some time for exploring and some time for walking. I find it a good idea to get out the door in a controlled fashion (dog at your side, not out in front of you) and keep that position for the first 10 minutes of the walk. Then give the command, “go sniff” and let her leash out to the full length so she can explore. Then after a few minutes of that tell her, “Let’s go, in close” and reel her in and start walking again for another 10 minutes, and then repeat. You will find that she gets the hang of those command words eventually. Like all training, it is all about the consistency and repetitions.

Let me know how this works out!


Creating a good dog walking experience

Ahh, nothing better than walking a dog on a lovely spring day. How about we all go together? What? Can’t? The dog “doesn’t like other dogs? People either? The dog’s leashes will get all tangled up and cause a minor disaster? eh, too much work, you’re right, let’s just skip it and let them out back.

So SAD! There is a sense of peacefulness that comes from walking with a group of dogs that can’t be matched. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they like to be with other dogs. Some of them just don’t know that or have forgotten. We are sort of pack animals too, we like to be together. So getting your dog to have nice leash manners is a skill that helps you both fulfill this urge to be together with your own kind in a productive, peaceful way.

Ok, so what are “nice” leash manners? Nice means: no pulling, no tripping me up, no tripping anyone else up, no growling or snapping at other beings, no incessant stopping to sniff every little thing, no lunging after the neighbor’s cat or the neighborhood rabbit or squirrel or deer or elephant (I don’t know where you live), no barking at anything, and generally enjoying being together.

Placement has a lot to do with fostering “nice” manners. A dog in front is a dog in charge and if that dog has anything other than a laid back, pacifist sort of personality they shouldn’t be in charge. Most dogs, nearly every single dog I’ve ever seen are much happier with you in charge of the walk. Really, much HAPPIER. Don’t confuse excitement – that frantic panting jumping barking energy for happiness. A happy dog is a calm dog that looks content. A hyper dog isn’t happy, he’s crazy. We don’t want crazy people leading us nor do we want crazy dogs leading us.

6wk puppy graduation

6-week Puppy Class graduation walk

So, keep your dog at your side. Draw an invisible line from your knees out to either side of you and that is the line the dog should stay behind at all times. Walking like this gives a dog a job, a sense of purpose. Try it yourself…when you’re out walking with a friend try to keep yourself behind their invisible line. It takes mindfulness of what you are doing and that is what we are after with out dogs. It is a mental. challenge.

Now, doing this can be difficult. A dog who is used to leading isn’t going to give up that position instantly. Mostly because they have been conditioned to walk there – it is what they know. You have to show them a new way. If you’re consistent, soon that will be what they know. To keep them at your side you have to shorten the length of leash between you and your dog. For that reason, I always suggest using a simple nylon, one ply, 1/2 inch leash no longer than 4 feet. And I suggest tying a knot in the leash where your hand should fall. That way you always know if you’re holding the leash in the right spot. People who train with me always get their leashes tied. It’s just my thing.


Spring is a great time to walk your dog

Spring is in the air – finally! It has been a long, cold winter here in Northern Illinois but the cold seems to be letting go. As the temperatures go up, everyone wants to get outside and for dog lovers that means walking your dog! I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of what proper dog walking consists.

In my opinion, a good dog walk is one where both dog and owner are working as a team, both are getting what they need, both are satisfied with the walk, and both feel relaxed and happy while they are doing it. A good walk leaves you with the feeling, “AH, that felt good!” and a sense of looking forward to the next time you get to walk.

Now, ask yourself, how often do your walks feel like that?

Most people struggle with the walk; either their dog pulls relentlessly, acts unpredictably or aggressively, zig zags all over the place, or stops to sniff every little thing. Most people end up feeling stressed out by their walks. Add to that the guilt many people feel about not walking their dogs enough or walking them too short a time and you end up with an unpleasant experience and a mild sense of dread when the next nice day comes along.

Sound familiar?


Getting charged while walking


My pack, all belted up

I received an email today from my new buddy. She’s as crazy as I am…well maybe a little bit less crazy – she walks three dogs at once, I walk five. Anyway, she asked about what to do when passing by a yard with an unleashed dog who charges when he sees you. This has happened to me. Usually what happens is you are happily walking by and a dog flies out of no where, barking and charging. Sometimes it stops and barks from a short distance away, sometimes it comes right up and starts roughing your dogs up. Both are examples of territory dominance and I deal with them in similar ways.

First of all, I make sure I am alert to my surroundings at all times. If you are going to walk multiple dogs at once you will not be able to listen to the radio or ipod or talk on the cell phone. (more…)