Winterizing Lizzie and Winston
Depending on where you live, winter can be brutal. Snowdrifts, ice and wind chills that send the temperature plummeting below zero are no uncommon occurrences. Each year as the leave fall and the days get shorter, you begin to winterize your house and your car. You plastic wrap your windows, put the snow tires on your car, stock up on hot chocolate, and you're ready for whatever Old Man Winter throws your way.
However, your dogs, Lizzie and Winston, are another story. Lizzie needs to go outside to do her business, and Winston's kennel enclosure is outside. You, their loving owner, are responsible for their winter well being.
Pooch Winter Gear
First, there is the option of doggy gear. There are all sorts of winter weather garments for your dogs, from the tiniest Chihuahua to the greatest Dane. From Lizzie's dewclaws to the tips of her ears, she can be warm and stylish, or ridiculous looking, depending on your opinions on canine fashion.
Fashionable or not, winter wear for dogs is essential, especially for small breeds, like Lizzie. Her extremities are your first concern. Her thin, sensitive ears and naked paws must be covered if at all possible. Many sizes and varieties of dog booties are available that easily strap on her feet. The booties provide warmth and even have grips on the bottom to help Lizzie walk on the ice and navigate snowdrifts. They also protect against the salt used by the city to help melt the snow faster.
Her ears can be covered by several varieties of hats, headbands, and hoods. If you don't want to buy something for her ears, there is a remarkably cheap and effective alternative. Take a tube sock and cut off the foot. Pull the remaining "tube" over Lizzie's head like a neck warmer. Be sure not to pull it down too far. Her ears should remain covered. For larger dogs like Winston, one of your own neck warmers should do the trick.
Then all you have left to worry about is your dog's bodies. Doggie sweaters, coats and sweatshirts are available in every shape, size and color you can think of. There are also differing degrees of "heavy-duty," from something that would be comfortable for your pup in a fall breeze to something that would with stand a freezing gale.
Bedding and Housing
Once Lizzie and Winston are decked out in their winter clothes, the next thing to worry about is where they sleep. Lizzie, who sleeps inside, is less of a concern. Putting an extra blanket in her kennel or moving her doggie bed closer to the heat vent are a nice way to ensure her comfort.
For Winston, whose kennel is outside, fortification against the elements is more essential. You should make sure that within his kennel enclosure, there is some solid-walled shelter, preferably made of wood. Winston should be able to comfortably fit inside this cozy den to escape the wind and the snow. You want to also ensure that in this shelter there is an abundance of dry blankets. This may mean you have to change them out on a regular basis. You could even go so far as to get a heated blanket in the shelter, plugged into an exterior outlet.
It is also a good idea to prepare a small space in your garage or basement with a dog bed that can be available to Winston in the coldest and harshest storms of winter.
The Chub-way Diet
Before the winter begins, and even through the course of winter, feeding Winston and Lizzie a bit extra can be healthy. Animals naturally gain weight as the seasons change to cope with the cold. Your dog getting a little heavier before the winter months is encouraged, but you do have to be careful. Lizzie and Winston will have fewer opportunities for exercise during the winter. As such, too much extra weight can be unhealthy.
Try to find exercises your dogs can do even in the winter months. A smaller dog like Lizzie can run around inside the house, playing fetch or tug of war. Winston is still more suited to outdoor activities, which means you have to bundle up enough to play with him for a while. You will get cold before he will, but the exercise, even 10 to 15 minutes a day will make all the difference in the world for keeping the balance of healthy weight gain and becoming pudgy.
The Potty Ritual
You have to be patient with your dogs in the colder months. While Winston shouldn't have a problem, Lizzie will find her potty ritual considerably harder.
Imagine yourself in Lizzie's place. You wouldn't want to do your business in subzero temperatures, and sometimes, neither do they. Being outside is dangerous for a small dog like Lizzie. Don't try to have some kind of stand off and wait it out because you can last longer in the weather than can she. Some days, she will faint or freeze stiff before she will pee, because it is so cold.
The best thing you can do to encourage Lizzie to pee outside is make trails for her to use. Deep snow can be painful on her feet and sometimes reaches up to her chest and underside. She can get too cold or even get frostbite. Obviously, then, she will not feel compelled to go potty outside.
A trail, made either by shovel, snow blower, or even stomping down the snow with your boots will give Lizzie a spot to pee and poop where she isn't chest deep in snow, depending on the location, she may even be blocked from the wind.
Bear in mind that your 2-year old child is far more susceptible to the cold and snow than is your 10-year old who is seemingly impervious. Applying these steps for your elderly dog that you do for your tiny one will ensure your older dog is just as comfortable.
On days when it is just too cold for Lizzie, it's good to have a few pee pads inside your house that are available for Lizzie if she needs them. Hopefully during her potty training when she was a pup, you got her used to pee pads. If not, and she pees somewhere else, run her to the pads and eventually she will get it. But like everything else, you must be consistent.
Now that Lizzie and Winston are all ready for winter, all you have to do is make sure they don't chase away Santa when he come to deliver your Christmas gifts.
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