Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cold Weather. Walking Dogs. When is it too cold?

When is it too cold to walk your dog? It was 22F this morning when Fidelma and I went for our morning walk. Now, for most of us in the northeast, 22F isn't a show-stopper at all but it is cold for November. We're just out of the Summer, and here we are hunched over in our heavy jackets and hoods, cursing that damn wind. Snow has already fallen farther north of us, in the Catskills and Adirondacks, and those folks are probably under more freezing temps than we are in northern New Jersey.

Anyway, I remember a year or two ago when Fidelma and I were out in 12F weather, and my neighbor was at his window gesturing to me, " What the hell are you doing out there in this kind of weather? " True, twelve-degree weather can be tough on everybody. At those temperatures, if your dog agrees to venture out of your warm home, your time out with your dog should focus on a quick poo and pee. When it gets down to single digits, then that's definitely painful. My inner ear starts giving me a sharp pain. Your dog could be in some sort of pain or discomfort too, but it can't articulate it to you. Know your dog. Some dogs can tolerate snow and the cold weather, but some can't. Your dog will usually let out signs that it's too cold for him/her. They shiver, look up at you, stay near the door, or simply stand still. Your correct interpretation of your dog's behaviour can protect him from the cold/hypothermia far more than any warm jacket can.

When it comes down to 20F and below, it's best for dog and human not to be walking around the neighborhood. Out in a cold day, if my dog suddenly stops walking, I don't pick her up because she'll get colder. I strongly urge her to walk on to keep warm, and head back home asap. At 22F, like this morning, ten degrees below freezing, we still take our regular route, about 3/4 of a mile. In the teens, if she's up to it, we would take a shorter route of about 3/10ths of a mile, just to get her business done. We will not go out anymore when the temp is in the single digits. I am getting too old for cold weather myself. Luckily, my Fidelma, a chihuahua, is trained to go in a tray like cats do. When she can't get out, she does her business there.

I must emphasize that my dog always wears a jacket when walking in cold weather. If you have one of those cold weather dogs, then a jacket might not be needed for as long as they stay active. Some people think that a husky or malamute can be left out in the cold, say in the doghouse, and still be alright. Well, these dogs can stay warm if they are in a pack. Individually, the dog will probably suffer from hypothermia.

As for Fidelma, there are times when I put two sweaters on her. She looks like a walking ball of yarn. I believe that the natural fur of most dog breeds are no match for the freezing cold.

If and when she turns back right after leaving the house, then that's it. That's Fidelma telling me that it's too cold for her, no matter what the temperature is. Sometimes, the dog feels chilled when you're not. Just like human beings, their tolerances for the cold can change from day to day. Remember, the dog will not pretend to be warm when it is chilled. So, pay attention to your dog.


air said...

Our boy is a snow dog. He LOVES cold weather. I walk him in 22F or -22F.

I laugh at Cesar Milan. He takes his dogs out for a 4 hour walk Southern California. Yeah Cesar, try THAT in the northern states during winter.

Chessbuff said...

A daily four-hour walk? Now, Cesar needs to be trained in telling the truth. And his show, like any other show, has cut out the unflattering cases where he failed to solve the problem. But, we can still learn a lot from him. When it's bitterly cold outside, I think I'll try driving Fidelma around and let her hop out at her usual poo and pee spots.