Do You Hate Walking Your Dog in the Winter?

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Do You Hate Walking Your Dog in the Winter?It’s okay, I’ll be the first one to answer that question. Yes! Sometimes I do hate going for walks with Haley when it’s bitterly cold and miserable outside. When the weather’s really nasty, we find other ways to exercise like some of the ideas I wrote about in my article, 12 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in the Winter. The problem is, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of skipping the walk and relying more on indoor exercise, rather than braving the elements.

I have to admit, I feel a little guilty when we opt for indoor exercise because I know Haley would much rather go for a walk outdoors where she can get more of a workout and have the joy of relishing all the sights, sounds and smells along the way. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, check out these solutions to the most common complaints and excuses we use to stay inside on cold winter days.

7 Complaints About Walking Your Dog in the Winter (and the Solutions!)

1. I’m just not motivated.
Cold weather can put a damper on your motivation to go outside. Use your dog’s excitement about going for a walk to help you get into the spirit or focus on how rejuvenated you feel when you return home from an invigorating walk. Instead of taking the same boring walk around the block, go for a hike in the woods or explore a new area of town. You already have one walking buddy, why not recruit a few more. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to join you on daily walks.
2. It’s too cold.
Yep, I can’t deny it feels warmer sitting on the couch inside your home, but with the right clothes and accessories you can stay comfortable on your wintertime walk. Invest in a good pair of boots, some wool socks, insulted gloves, a hat and how about a colorful scarf too? Layer your clothing to retain body heat and you’ll be all set to head outside for some fun with your pup. On days when it’s dangerously cold outside, use common sense and stay safe and warm indoors.
3. It’s too cold for my dog.
Most dogs are fine when walking outside in the wintertime but you’ll want to limit the amount of time for puppies, senior dogs and dogs with illnesses. There are several types of dogs that can benefit from wearing a sweater or jacket when it’s cold outside. Read Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter? to find out if your dog would benefit from the extra insulation. Keep an eye on your pup for warning signs that they might be cold or uncomfortable. If your dog’s shivering, whining, looking anxious, picking up their feet or they hesitant to keep walking, it’s time to head back indoors.
4. My dog’s paws get cold or form ice balls.
Snow can cling to the hair between your dog’s toes and form painful ice balls. Prevent the ice balls from forming by trimming the hair between your dog’s paw pads. Also consider using booties or applying a wax such as Musher’s Secret to your dog’s paws before your walk. If your dog doesn’t wear booties, be sure to wipe their paws with a wet washcloth when you arrive back home to remove any residue from salt or chemical de-icers which may be dangerous if ingested.
Dog on Ice Puddle
5. It’s slippery outside and my dog pulls on the leash.
Ice and a pulling dog usually results with you ending up on your butt or worse. Here are a couple of things that will help keep you on your feet. First, buy a pair of ice cleats that fit over your boots, such as the Yaktrax Walk, to give you better traction. Next, prevent your dog from pulling by using a front clipping harness combined with a non-retractable leash for more control. Remember, every walk is also an opportunity to train your dog not to pull on the leash.
6. It’s hard to hold the leash and pick up poop while wearing gloves.
Besides juggling a leash and poop bags, you’re probably also dealing with treats, a cellphone and maybe even tissues for a runny nose. Don’t bother with gloves or mittens that you have to take off over and over again. Instead, buy a pair of fingerless gloves with an attached mitten flap that easily pulls over your exposed fingers. I have a pair of gloves similar to these that I absolutely love.
7. I don’t like walking in the dark.
The shorter days of winter mean some people might not be able to walk their dogs during daylight hours. A couple of items can help keep you and your pup safe. A headlamp rather than a flashlight will leave your hands free to manage the leash and other things and an LED collar or clip-on collar light will help make your pup visible in the dark.

Those are some of the most common complaints about walking your dog in the winter but there are plenty of benefits and reasons to love those wintertime walks too. Here are just a few!

Reasons to Love Walking Your Dog in the Winter

  • There’s something very special about a quiet walk through fresh fallen snow.
  • Winter walks are more peaceful because fewer people are outside. This is especially nice if you have a reactive dog.
  • Fresh air and a chance to absorb a little sunlight does wonders for your attitude during the winter months.
  • You and your pup will stay in great shape and avoid winter weight gain.
  • The mental stimulation and exercise of a walk will help prevent destructive dog behavior caused by boredom.
  • You won’t feel guilty. 🙂

Snow Hike with Dog

While I’m on the topic of winter walks, I want to throw in a couple of safety tips.
Always use a leash if you’re walking or hiking near frozen ponds or lakes. It’s not worth taking the risk of your dog falling through a partially frozen body of water.
Be careful about letting your dog walk in snow that has an icy crust over the top of it. Haley once ripped her dew claw because it got snagged on the ice as her paw broke through the crusted over snow.

Since January is National Walk Your Dog Month, I’m going to challenge myself to maintain the same walking schedule as we have during the warm summer months. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, why not join me in the challenge and use the tips here to make cold weather walking more enjoyable. For you hardcore winter walkers, I’d love to hear your tips on how you make winter walks more comfortable and fun!

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Do You Hate Walking Your Dog in the Winter?

36 Comments on “Do You Hate Walking Your Dog in the Winter?”

    • My mom loves walking in the winter. She loves the cold and snow and we love it all too. We wear boots if the snow is fresh and wet to keep the ice balls out of our paws, but we just love it. Our lack of motivation is in the spring when everything melts and it is all a mess, but no matter, our rule is 2+ walks per day every day of the year. If you prepare ahead mentally, it helps too.

      • That’s awesome you take 2 or more walks every day and you’re right, springtime can be rainy, muddy and messy around here too. I’ll still take rain over frigid temperatures though. Brrrr! ?

    • Since we live in SoCal we don’t have to contend with the cold too much, but even though it rarely goes below 30 degrees – it’s tough on those days! These are great tips and reminders that it’s still important to get out there and get some fresh air and some exercise.

      • We do tend to adapt to the weather where we live. Our son moved to Texas a few years ago and people there think 50 degrees is cold, lol!

      • Yes, cold walks after dark aren’t that much fun. I do love late night, summer walks when it’s cooler and the stars are out. Summer can’t get here quick enough, lol!

      • It’s really nice when there aren’t a lot of people out and about. We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood so it’s always nice when there’s not a lot of car traffic or other dog walkers.

    • I feel so much better once I get out even when it’s cold. As long as we get out the door!! Luckily Cocoa does not let me take days off and we always feel so much better once we get running or walking!!

    • I just wrote about all the reasons we love winter walking a few weeks ago. I totally agree it can be hard to find the motivation, but Barley makes it pretty clear that she is going to bring our apartment crashing to the ground if I don’t get her out at least once a day, so she gives me motivation 😉

      • There’s no better motivation than that, haha! I’ll check out your post on winter walking because I can always use more motivation. ?

      • That’s okay, M.K. We all do that, don’t we? In the summer it’s too hot and humid on some days and too cold in the wintertime on some days. ?

    • It’s not so much like a real winter here in LA. But I still feel so much less motivated than summer time. This post definitely helps us get motivated! <3 Thank you so much! 🙂 I've heard that dogs love snow too. Maybe one day Happy gets to experience the snow! 😀

      • Haha, I wonder what Happy would think to suddenly see a foot of snow! If I were you, I would just stay there in sunny LA and enjoy the warm weather.

    • I had to laugh out loud at a memory that popped up while reading #5.. Picture me, being pulled along the ice, with a male goat on the other end of the cord. Yes, mating season, and the female we were going to visit lived up the road a bit. But that’s a whole other story. Thanks for the smiles. Peace

    • What a great motivational post, Elaine! If it were up to me, I’d only walk during spring, summer, and fall 😉 Since Missy & Buzz disagree with me (sorta like Haley!) I make sure to bundle up before going out on those cold winter walks – it’s definitely wise to invest in a good, warm pair of walking boots and an insulated, waterproof winter jacket.

      You know what keeps my spirits lifted throughout a cold walk? The anticipation of warming up with a hot cup of coffee once back inside, snuggling with the pups, and being proud of having braved the outdoors. It’s all about the right kind of attitude 🙂

      • You’re so right, Barbara! It’s so easy to talk yourself out of a walk when it’s cold outside but it does feel wonderful to get back home and relax. My wintertime drink of choice is a cup of Harney & Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea. ?

    • Geez, you just blew holes in every one of my good excuses. LOL. One thing I know for sure is that once I get out there, I never regret going for a nice winter walk. Getting out in the fresh air is the only thing that makes winter tolerable for me…and the dogs are what motivates me to actually get out there. Our walks aren’t as frequent in the winter (but we play ball in the yard daily), and I do have my temperature limits (below 20 degrees, I won’t go)…but overall I do way better than I used to.

    • I have to admit that I do not walk on ice. I have terrible balance and risk of injury is not worth it to me. But this winter we have had very little of it. It was almost 50 today so no ice. Of course by the time I got home from work, hubby had already walked all three dogs…lol.

      • Ever since I wrote this article, it’s been warm here too. I’m off to a good start with this winter walking challenge, lol!

    • Oh, Ace and I have had so many cold walks over the years. I agree, sometimes it’s just so not motivating. I did find that off-leash hikes were more fun. That way I didn’t have to hold the leash with my freezing fingers and he could bound around as he wanted and stay warmer that way. (Easier for me to pick up the poop too!)

      Also, just splurging and buying some cute winter gear for yourself or your dog can help. If you like your cute coat or hat or mittens it does make it easier to go for a walk in them, at least for me that helped!

      • Yes! We do lots of off-leash walks in the winter because we rarely run into anyone else on the trails which is nice. I love your idea about splurging on nice outerwear and gloves. It’s just another little motivator to get out there.

        You’re so lucky to be in San Diego now, but you guys did pay your dues on cold winter walking, haha! ?

    • Last year I bought a cap that has small battery operated lights built into the bill. This saved me from falling at night when I walk my 2 beagles. It helped so much to be hands free!

      • I really need to get one of those, Holly. That’s a great tip! I could even use it when cleaning Haley’s ears so I can see better down inside there. Adding that to my Christmas list! ?

    • We go to a nonpopulateded area and let them blaze through the snow, be a dog and do
      There business . (Pick up
      Of course) I think it wears
      Them out just trying to make it through the snow drifts great work out then warm car. P.s we do put on coats if it’s super cold .

      • That’s a perfect solution to let them romp, play and run. By mixing it up and sometimes doing off leash and sometimes regular walks, it would help me stay more motivated too when it’s cold. Thanks for sharing that tip, Kris!?

    • I’m a pet sitter in Northern WI. Last week wind chills -25 to -35. My Golden Retriever requires walk. Take him to off leash area to get “jobs” done. If not, I have to walk on leash long distance before he gets motivated to eliminate. Thought walking was tough, but now my Brittany is eating frozen poop in the fenced area, walking may be better for all concerned. Yuck.

      • Brrr! I thought it was hard to stay motivated here in Ohio in the winter, lol! When it’s windy outside, that makes it especially miserable. I think you win the dog walking and pet sitting award of the year, Mary!?

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