I’ve never loved cold weather and frankly don’t get the appeal of racing down mountains on skinny fiberglass boards. But as other Bay Area residents load their cars with skis and sweaters for the drive to the year-round beautiful Sierra Nevada, many are also taking dogs along. This is for them.
Time spent with our dogs (and cats, rabbits, horses, guinea pigs, etc.) are among our best times. But when we take our dog into an environment very different from their norm, we must make sure that time is fun, safe and healthy for them. How, then, to “winterize” the family dog?
That built-in fur coat may help, but even the fluffiest dogs who spend 99 percent of their time in our Bay Area Mediterranean climate will not have developed the full coat found on dogs exposed to more significant seasonal weather. And in real cold weather, even that full-coated dog is still at risk of everything from cracked paws to potentially fatal hypothermia. A good starting point: if you feel the need of a coat, your dog does too. Happily for fashion-conscious Fidos, fiber- and down-filled dog vests are readily available.
Add booties which provide not only warmth but increased traction. They also protect paws from ice (which quickly develops on the fluff between toes) as well as salts and chemicals used to control ice (problematic both on the skin and if ingested).
Don’t expect your dog to instantly enjoy or even tolerate these fashion accessories. Brief initial dress-up sessions with lots of loving (hugs, praise, yummies) is always the ticket. If booties just aren’t accepted (dogs often find them more off-putting than coats) there are several commercially available wax-like ointments designed for cold weather that are rubbed directly onto a dog’s feet.
One last tip: any time you and your animals are away from home, make sure the animal is wearing ID, which includes your cell number and/or local contact.
Ken White is the president of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.