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Working Your Dog in the Winter

Dog Training in the Snow

Keep your training sessions with your dog quick and efficient to stave off cabin fever while keeping your dog safe in inclement weather.

For those of you caught in the polar vortex, you know it can limit your time out with your dog. The freezing cold temperatures can make it tempting to stay inside, but too much time away from the great outdoors can have a negative effect on you and your dog. Cabin fever can result in decreased responsive to commands, increased inappropriate activity and decreased drive. To safely and effectively keep up your training schedule with your pup in the frozen months, follow these quick tips:

Keep Sessions Short: This is a good thing to keep in mind for any training session, but is especially important in months of extreme weather. Your dog only needs 10-15 minute sessions to stay sharp on old skills or learn new ones. If your focus is on conditioning and repetition you can take on 4 to 5 commands per session. If you’re working on new behaviors, stick to 1-2 per session.

Watch the Feet: A dogs feet can be incredibly sensitive to the elements. Check your dog’s feet often to ensure they are not too chapped or wounded to train. Do not leave them exposed, uncovered to snow/ice for long durations as frostbite and nerve damage are possible in these conditions. It’s best to invest in a good set of dog boots if that is an option.  Finally, if you are in an area that could be treated with melt wash your dog’s feet after every session. Some brine can cause serious injury to your pup’s pads.

Groom Frequently: This is especially important for long haired dog. In extreme conditions it is possible for icicles to form on your dog’s ears, nose, coat or beard. It’s important to remove these quickly as the ice can penetrate the coat and injure the dog’s skin.

Be On Alert for Snow Consumption: Some dogs find it very tempting to ingest snow. In small amounts this is acceptable, but too much can put your dog at risk of hypothermia. Ingesting snow lowers your dog’s internal body temperature also lowering the amount of time they can spend in the cold. To help avoid this always keep fresh water available during training sessions. If the behavior continues despite alternatives, you can teach your dog not to ingest the snow by following our training protocol for correcting behaviors.

Use Caution: Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too cold to hunt and train. It’s pretty dag gone cold, but it exists. If the temperatures in your area are even close to hazardous, skip the session for the day. A couple of days here and there will not be undo all of your hard work. A few days of cabin fever won’t be fun for anyone, but it’s far better than a trip to the emergency vet.

What other tips would you add to this list?

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3 Comments

  1. sam
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    So how do you treat dog paws that have sore pads?

    Sometimes we will spend 30-90minutes on the snow, the only problem is snow build-up inbetween the pads, which only bothers him until we clear the chunks out and he’s good to go.

    There have been a few times a day or so after where he favors a paw after he has been out in the yard for a few minutes.

    Overall he seems to be pretty content outside, but have noticed issues once in a while due to the frozen ground.

    Tips/Pointers?

    • SportDOG
      Posted February 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      That’s a great question. Most small injuries can be treated at home. Inspect the area, if you notice an abrasion, rinse it with cool water to make sure there is no debris. Apply an antibacterial ointment for the first few days. Neosporin or any similar choice works great. Apply a light layer and wrap the pad lightly. Change the cover daily. Allow a few hours in between changing to allow the wound to receive air. This should take care of it in 2-3 days. If you notice the wound is not healing or looks swollen/inflamed see your vet immediately. We’ve got some quick tips that go more in depth to this treatment here: http://www.sportdog.com/blog/2012/10/treating-paw-injuries-in-hunting-dogs/ and an overall view of foot-care for all seasons here http://www.sportdog.com/blog/2012/09/proper-foot-care-for-your-dog-in-the-season/.

      Thanks!

      • Bill Wagner
        Posted February 7, 2014 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        There is a product called Mushers Secret that is good for treating paws to prevent snow build up. I found it from Amazon.

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  1. By Training in winter | Americanbrittguy's Blog on February 7, 2014 at 4:56 pm

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