Well, it looks like Old Man Winter has finally decided to send some real weather to Staten Island, but that doesn’t mean dog walking can be postponed. Here’s how to keep you and your dog cozy on cold days.

  • Buy a good quality jacket

All but the largest, hardiest of dogs need jackets or sweaters in the height of the New York City winter, but this especially applies to smaller dogs and dogs with short hair. A good quality insulated, waterproof and windproof jacket can keep your dog’s temperature at a comfortable and acceptable level on frigid days. Buying a warm sweater in addition to a waterproof outer shell is a good idea since you can add or remove layers depending on the weather. Make sure they’re a good fit! 

  • Use dog boots or paw protection wax

As well as offering more defense from the wet and cold, good quality dog boots are useful for NYC streets because ice and snow mean salted sidewalks. The chemical salts used to melt snow and ice can be irritating to some dogs and they will often attempt to lick the chemicals from between their pads. Dogs who’ve licked salt and chemicals off their paws have suffered problems like hyper salivation, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Dog owners should avoid freshly salted sidewalks. Consider keeping a container of warm water and cloths by the door for use after walks. It is good to rinse the paws before you wipe them dry. If your dog will tolerate booties, they are a good option. Just make sure they’re a good fit, easy to walk in and attach securely. There is nothing worse than dog boots that come off repeatedly during a walk. Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Cream is perfect for dogs who don’t like boots! It is an all-natural, easy-to-apply wax-based cream designed to protect paws from harsh surfaces.  

  • Avoid electrified surfaces

Incredibly, New York City’s utility company Con Edison cannot yet guarantee that manhole covers, grates and other metal surfaces will not carry stray current during the winter. The salt used to melt snow and ice corrodes old, neglected wires and sometimes leaves them bare. In a few (thankfully rare) cases NYC dogs have been electrified in the winter, and back in 2004 a dog walker in Manhattan was killed while walking her dogs after she fell on an electrified grate. If your dog suddenly yelps or screams when walking along the sidewalk then move them away immediately – there could be an electrified surface underneath. Small stray currents can even jump across non-metallic surfaces when there is melted snow mixed with salt. It goes without saying that you should avoid all metal surfaces in the winter, but since this is not always possible then it’s a good idea to buy rubber-soled boots for your dog. If you discover stray current anywhere then report it to Con Edison immediately.

  • Wear shoes or boots with a good grip

It probably goes without saying but you yourself should always wear appropriate footwear when walking your dog in conditions of ice or snow. It’s so easy to lose your balance and fall if your dog pulls or lurches suddenly!

  • Keep your dog out of snow drifts

Snow excites most dogs. To some, there is nothing more irresistible than the sight of a six foot snow drift on the edge of the sidewalk. It’s also a lot of fun to see your dog dive into such a drift and leap around with joyous abandon…however, it’s worth thinking about what could possibly lie underneath. Drifts sometimes form overnight completely covering trash and other discarded objects – which could include such things as broken mirrors and old electronic appliances with sharp edges. Ouch! 

  • Shorten walks in extreme conditions

When the temperature drops below zero and the wind chill factor sets in, don’t keep your dog out for too long – even if you think the weather is bearable yourself. Dogs are smaller than us and even those with thick coats can be severely affected by long periods in frigid weather. Ears are particularly prone to frostbite. Extremely cold air can damage the lungs of people so it can certainly damage the smaller lungs of dogs, too. Your dog will likely tell you when it’s too cold to walk or time to go back inside – listen to them! It probably means it’s too cold for you, too…limit walks on such days to a basic toilet trip, and initiate some extra play indoors for the exercise.