November 21, 2008 // Franchising.com // Englewood, Colo. As the temperature drops and the snow piles up, dog lovers need to take special precautions to protect their canine companions from winter's dangers. Bark Busters, the world's largest dog training company, has compiled winter safety tips based on the experience of the company's worldwide network of dog behavioral therapists.
"While it's easy to think that dogs are immune to cold because of their fur, the fact is that more dogs perish in the winter than at any other time of the year," said Liam Crowe, CEO and master dog behavioral therapist of Bark Busters USA. "Frostbite, hypothermia and antifreeze poisoning present the biggest winter threats to dogs. But by taking a few precautions, dog owners can keep their dogs safe this winter."
While many dogs can be safe in outside temperatures down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit with proper shelter (see below), puppies, smaller dogs and older dogs should not be left outdoors when the temperature falls below 40 degrees. Shorthaired dogs, such as Chihuahuas and greyhounds, can become immediately chilled after leaving the warm house, so they will need a sweater put on before going outside.
These dogs should not be left outside under any circumstances. Escort older dogs outside for toileting. If the yard has snow or ice, use a leash since older dogs can easily fall and seriously injure themselves.
Dogs' ears, paws and tails are especially susceptible to frostbite. Initially, frostbitten tissue may appear pale or gray in color, and the area will be cold and hard to the touch. As the area thaws, it may become red. In severe frostbite, within several days the tissue will start to appear black. If you suspect frostbite, bring your dog into a warm location and soak the affected area in lukewarm water for about 20 minutes. Contact your veterinarian. If your dog plays on ice or hard, frozen dirt, his paws are susceptible to cuts as they slide across these rough surfaces. Watch for chewing at his paws during long walks or periods of play. Always wipe your dog's feet after a walk in the snow to remove ice and salt deposits from the road. Salt irritates a dog's paws and can be toxic if ingested. Use only pet-safe ice melt.
If you notice shivering, lethargy, low heart rate and unresponsiveness, bring your dog into a warm area, place a light blanket over him, and call your veterinarian.
Unfortunately, dogs like the sweet taste of antifreeze, which can cause sickness or death if ingested. Make certain that all antifreeze containers are well out of reach of dogs, and thoroughly clean any spills immediately.
If your dog stays outside much of the time in the winter, make certain that his doghouse meets certain minimum criteria. It needs to be raised a couple of inches off the frozen ground or concrete. The inside needs to have a blanket, cedar shavings or straw, which should be changed frequently to keep them warm and dry. Add a flap to the door, and face the doghouse away from the weather. The size of the doghouse should be large enough so your dog can sit and stand, but small enough so his body heat will be retained in the house.
Use a plastic water bowl to ensure the dog's tongue does not get stuck to cold metal, and change the water often to keep it from freezing.
If your dog remains active in winter, he'll burn more calories in the cold—and needs about 10 percent more food to compensate. If your dog becomes less active in the winter, try to keep him from gaining extra weight by cutting back his food and making sure you continue taking him for walks and playing with him.
Dogs that spend less time outside during the winter may become lethargic—or, in some cases, may become hyper. The best way to keep your dog active or to use his excess energy is to cause him to think. Providing 10 15 minutes of training daily on basics such as sit, stay, come, and walking on leash will energize the lethargic dog and cause the hyper dog to be more tired. Providing 10 15 minutes of workout twice a day will be even better. Provide your dog with a Kong® or a Buster® Cube to keep him active indoors. For a less active dog, make him work for his meal by placing it inside his Kong® or Buster Cube®.
Bark Busters, the world's largest, most trusted dog training company, started in Australia in 1989 and came to the United States in 2000. Since inception, nearly 400,000 dogs have been trained worldwide using its dog-friendly, natural methods. With 240+ franchised offices in 41 states and more than 400 offices in 10 countries, Bark Busters is continuing its mission to build a global network of dog behavioral therapists to enhance responsible dog ownership and reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment and euthanasia of companion dogs. Bark Busters is the only international dog training company that offers guaranteed lifetime support. Therapists will provide future sessions free of charge if problem behaviors recur, or if any new problems develop. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com, where dog owners can complete a Dog Behavioral Quiz to rate their dogs' behavior.