With the summer long gone, it can be difficult to feel motivated when it comes to walking our fluffy best friends in the winter. Especially as the temperature begins to drop and the sun sets earlier and earlier each day (no one wants to be chasing them around a park in complete darkness). But there are some reasons why walking your dog in winter is important to them. PDSA vet nurse Shauna Walsh advises: “Going for a long country walk is one of the greatest joys of having a dog. “Not only does exercise help keep you and your dog physically healthy, getting outdoors in different environments with different smells will help keep your four-legged friend’s brain active, too. “Like humans, dogs need the mental stimulation that new sights and experiences bring so we’ve pulled together a list of our favourite winter walks you could try with your pooch this year.” She adds: “For some dogs, walks in new places can be incredibly exciting. A variety of new sights, smells, and locations to explore can offer wide sensory experience that stimulates their minds and keeps them engaged.” Why is Aysgarth Falls one of England’s best winter dog walks? Vet charity PDSA said: “Aysgarth Falls is a beauty spot which only gets better in the winter – especially after a period of lots of rain. “There are three flights of waterfalls to experience, and with both off lead areas, as well as pathed routes, there are plenty of options to choose from. “Make sure to keep your dog on the lead close to water. For dogs who don’t mind a climb, the total elevation to the top of the waterfalls is about 215 metres, and will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. And because it’s rather sheltered, it’s a good choice for rainy days, too.” “While many dogs still love the chance to go out on adventures during the colder months, the winter season does require a little more thought and preparation to keep your dog safe,” explains Shauna. “You’ll need to take extra care when outdoors and watch out for these common winter hazards.” Salt and grit: Often used on roads in winter, salt and grit can irritate our pet’s paws. If you end up walking on salt and grit, be sure to wash your pet’s paws upon returning home. You could apply a thin layer of paw butter or other pet-safe skin cream to your dog’s pads which may protect them from cracking. Snowy paws: If it’s a white Christmas, the snow can build up on dogs’ paws and cause them discomfort, so prepare paws by keeping hair between pads trimmed, so there’s less hair for snow to gather on. When you get home from your snowy walk, check your dog’s paws and soak off any snow in warm water. Antifreeze and de-icer: This is great to stop cars icing up in winter but is actually incredibly toxic for animals and can be fatal if ingested. If you suspect your pet may have licked some antifreeze, contact your vet and get them to your vet for treatment straight away, so they can start treatment immediately. Never wait for symptoms to appear. Keep antifreeze out of the reach of pets and clean up any spills really thoroughly – so no one is put at risk. Storms and floods: Heavy rain can cause havoc, so it’s best to be prepared for bad weather over winter. If there is a storm or flood warning, consider exercising your pooch inside instead. Will the UK get snow this winter? Extreme temperatures: If it’s an extremely cold winter’s day, beware of icy surfaces – they can be just as slippery for our pets. Look out for frozen ponds, too. They may be enticing for curious canines, but are as dangerous to our pets as they are to us. To keep your dog safe around bodies of water, keep them on a lead. Dark nights: Take extra precautions during walks when the sun goes down – LED collars and hi-vis leads for your pooch, as well as a torch and brightly colored coat for you, are great for lighting the way and being visible. Wrap up warm: Most dogs grow thick furry coats all year round, so aren’t bothered by the chilly weather, but some thinner-haired breeds, puppies and older dogs may need extra help staying warm and can benefit from wearing a coat in colder weather (make sure it’s a hi-vis one for extra safety!).
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