As winter arrives, so does the less than ideal weather. Rain, muddy ground, and storms can all make the daily dog walks that extra bit challenging. So, I’ve compiled some simple tips for making that soggy outing a bit more manageable.
Be prepared for muddy dog walks
If you’re heading out, check the weather before you leave. If you’re going out into the countryside (especially in remote areas) take a coat. It might look sunny enough, but I’d have money on the weather changing at this time of the year.
Be sensible about your dog walking plans. Don’t plan a long walk if the weather is terrible, you’re probably over-stretching the limits of your enjoyment!
If it’s windy out, avoid routes through woodland, and if it’s been raining for days, maybe that path by the river won’t be quite so manageable. Also, be aware of the time. It gets dark early, so don’t get caught out. And finally, if you’re going somewhere new, take a map. There’s nothing worse than getting lost in the rain.
No such thing as bad weather
We’re lucky to live in the age of waterproof clothing and footwear. I rarely leave home without it. When walking our dog at this time of year, I wear GORE-TEX trainers or boots, and a waterproof jacket. Even if it isn’t raining a jacket provides an extra layer of warmth and cuts out a lot of wind chill.
Some people prefer wellies to walk in, with woolly inserts to help keep their feet warm as well as dry. As long as your feet can stay dry, then they have a chance of remaining warm and comfortable. Trying to walk with wet feet is just not fun, trust me, I’ve accidentally stepped in so many bogs now I’ve lost count.
I will also say, on the outdoor gear front, that layering up your clothes will keep you warmer than wearing one thick layer of clothing. Clothing can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I do rate Uniqlo’s Heattech base layers, if you can’t afford to splash out on Merino products.
Water repellent and waterproof trousers for less than sunny days have been a saviour on many walks now. And a basic waterproof overtrouser will be more than good enough for dog walking purposes. Even long walks over hills. The only downside to overtrousers is the lack of ventilation, so if it’s not cold, they can be uncomfortable to wear.
Walking dogs in cold weather
So, what about the dog? Owners of short-haired dog breeds, such as greyhounds, often choose to buy a dog jacket for winter weather. This helps give them a bit of extra protection from the cold. However, many dog breeds’ own fur coats are enough to keep them warm.
There are other precautions you can take, especially in icy weather. Try to keep dogs paws away from grit on roads and pavements. It may help people and cars negotiate the ice, but dogs can find the salt and grit painful on their soft paws.
Getting dry after a wet and muddy dog walk
It’s not just humans that need to dry off after a wet and muddy dog walk. A damp and dirty dog running about in the house or getting into the car is a bit of a nightmare.
Dog owners often use an old bath towel or banish the dog to a suitable room (often the kitchen or utility room) to dry off. But there are more efficient ways of getting your dog dry. Dog drying coats are a great way to make the process pain free (well almost).
Car travel with muddy dogs and humans
Whether you travel with your dog in the boot, a crate or harness, protect your car’s surfaces with easy to clean rubber matting or wipe clean covers. This will make the clean up after walks far simpler.
Make sure you load the car up with dry towels (for you and for your dog), spare socks, and a flask of something warm (we like hot chocolate for a nice treat). We also keep a stiff brush in the car, so we can remove clumps of mud from our shoes and boots before getting back into our vehicle.
Things to do when you get back home
Whilst it’s tempting to kick your boots off and get the kettle on, don’t forget to deal with the wet towels, coats and socks. I’m always forgetting to dry out my shoes or the dog’s harness before the next walk!
My nan used to keep a boot scraper next to the back door, and I’ve started to think we should do the same. We do keep newspaper in our porch though, ready to scrunch up and put in wet shoes to help them dry out.
Finally, have a check of your dog’s paws. If they feel a little dry or cracked then they may need to attention. There are plenty of balms you can buy to help protect and heal the paw pads, but Vaseline is a good, affordable alternative.
Are you a super all-weather walker? Please share your tips for coping with muddy dog walks below!