When people think of playing out in the snow with a dog they tend to think of big dogs. But did you know that little dogs can dig snow just as much as their bigger brethren? With a little know how and planning, and some would suggest breed knowledge, you can have snow-time fun with your fuzzy wee one. Our little furry babies love the snow. Except for getting-to-be-a-senior Spike – he takes care of business and hurries back inside to lay in-front of the fireplace….Chihuahuas, little heat seekers! When Mattie and our other Shih Tzus are out in the snow our neighbors often ask, can little dogs play in big snow? The answer is yes! Here’s how:
Dress for Warmth
For our full-length Shih Tzus that means naked as a jay bird! Not all little dogs are ‘fragile’ and were historically known for winter-time participation. Looking at our fluff ball home-sharing companions today, it might be hard to identify the markings of a pup that can withstand a little chill. Basically you’re looking for a dog’s coat that resists soaking, likely double coat (a top coat made of more solid, course or stiff hairs that help repel water and a softer undercoat that serves as insulation), and has thicker ear fur – these basic characteristics help a pup stay warm in low temperatures. Small dogs such as Terriers, Havanese, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Spaniel and Yorkies have these types of coats.
Wait? Your fuzzy little dog doesn’t have a double coat? Well then, you are lucky because you get to go shopping! There are a number of great dog coats made for cold weather fun. Heck, your double furred pup might like forgoing commando and enjoy a coat of his or her very own to ward off the winter chill. Just like humans, you will grow to understand if your dog prefers fleece or a warmer outer layer, up to the category of a thermal insulated coat. The thickness of the coat depends on your dog’s likes as well as the humidity in your locale – if the snow is more wet you’ll likely want a coat with a waterproof outer-shell. One unifying feature that binds all types of winter dog couture – the leash hole! No matter if your pup goes freestyle or coated, make sure that he or she wears a nice snug harness for full control; and, if you’re going to have your dog be a fashionista then ensure that the coat you select is also good for this function.
My dogs don’t do boots. Or at least I don’t do my dogs doing boots….I need more immediate gratification I suppose and watching my dog walk around like a goof-head trying to free his paws from boots isn’t something I’m that interested in taking in. We do make a few exceptions. We love those little balloon-styled reusable/disposable natural rubber dog boots for short outings, and the easy on, super thin velcro wrap style dog boot for in-city winter walks. These two seem the most universally acceptable to dogs. What do we use on a regular basis? We adore dog paw wax, and the more organic and natural all the better in our book. We give petroleum-based products the big no. Why? Paws are skin and what we don’t use on our own skin for health reasons we don’t use on our pup’s skin. Quick tip: if you’ve run out of organic paw wax, then use organic cooking oil – we use walnut.
First you’ll want to gently trim your fuzzy one’s paw fur away from their pads and in between their little toes. This helps eliminate snow from gathering in those areas. Just like you can’t walk with a hard stone in your shoe, a dog can’t be expected to walk with icy lumps of snow stuck in their paws. Another reason we tend to go boot free is to allow our dogs to use their nails – in the winter is where you will really see this in action! Our little boy uses his toe nails for ‘gription’ to keep him steady on icy surfaces. So make sure your pup’s nails are trimmed and healthy and ready to dig in!
Water, Treats and Toys
Your little dog may need water depending on how long you have him or her out and about frolicking in the winter wonderland. We always bring along our freeze-proof water bottle and collapsable dog bowl for little hydration breaks. Even though your pup may play for hours, dog’s panting doesn’t cause salt loss like sweating does, and so no need for Gator Aid-ing your pup. Also, we take along some homemade dog treats on our winter-time hikes. Our go-to for chomping while on a hike: dehydrated sweet potatoes! You don’t have to be as Pioneer Woman as that, perhaps store bought dog biscuits are your thing – just go with what works and goodies that your pups enjoy.
Toys are important in winter time play, and we take them along to play a few games of fetch or retrieve. Take toys that your pup already knows and loves and this will make your snowy adventure a more relaxing time for you dog’s initial outings. We pack a little backpack with all of these basic necessities, as well as a small dog first-aid kit – it never hurts to be prepared. Also, if you started the hike out with your little dog in full coated gear and he or she is panting a bit too much then you can store the coat in your backpack.
Make It Fun and Keep It Fun
We like to take our pups with us on hikes and even when we go snowshoeing or cross country skiing. What? I can hear you now, “Shih Tzus do that?” Yes they do! We have adopted over 6 Shih Tzus and each one has enjoyed the snow – even the one from Hawaii! We start slowly with fun games, treats and breaks interspersed along our stroll. We are aware of their limitations. Typically our Shih Tzus will do a 3-5 mile hike, or 1-2 miles when more strenuous activity is involved. We always monitor the time outdoors and have learned that for our young pups about one and a half hour of outdoor winter-time fun is adequate, and for our older less seasonally inclined dogs we go about 15-20 minutes.
Our Shih Tzus are happy little snow bunnies…well…little doggies and they love tagging along with us. At times we even take along our neighbor’s Tibetan and it’s a blast! Dogs like dogs – so the more the merrier, just keep in mind that dogs tend to lose their minds in the cold of the snow and they require just as much attention as if you were at a dog park. Free range snowy Fido often is not a good idea, especially if you’re like us and spend time in mountainous alpine forests where coyotes and other such critters make their home. Even deer can be dangerous to dogs, particularly small dogs – I know, doesn’t conjure up the Rudolph pictures you were envisioning over the holidays, but deer stomp when they feel threatened.
What Tips Do You Have?
So to the question posed earlier, can little dogs play in big snow, the answer is, yes they can! We’ve shared some of our tips and tricks with how we enjoy winter with our Shih Tzu babies and now we’d love to hear from you. It’s your time to share your knowledge – let our readers know how you enjoy spending winter time with your dogs!
With lub, MattieDog, a little dog making a big impact in this world!®
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