Walking a senior dog in the winter can be a challenge if you live where there is snow, ice, and cold weather. It can be even more challenging if your senior dog has arthritis or other issues with walking in general.
Katie is 13 1/2 now. Her arthritis and other issues are under control but she isn’t always steady on her paws, she does fall down easily, but she still wants to go for her walks every day. Mom takes her out for a minimum of two walks a day, one shorter, one longer, for a total of about sixty minutes. I wanted to share a few tips we find helpful with Katie.
1. Handling the cold
You need to know your dog. Are they warm enough with their own fur, or do they need a coat? How long can they stay out in the cold? How long can you stay out in the cold? Katie can stay out for a long time, even in subzero weather, but Mom starts to freeze because Katie walks very slow. Katie’s arthritis actually feels much better in the winter than in the humid summer weather, so we really try to get her out moving around.
2. Take it slow
Katie has one speed only, and that is slow. She can go for an hour, but it is slow and steady. When walking a senior dog any time of the year, let them set the pace for your walks.
3. Take shorter walks
Let your dog decide how far they want to walk. Some days, Katie doesn’t really want to walk more than a block, other times she wants to stay out for an hour. Just as people don’t feel 100% every day, neither do senior dogs. If you are walking through fresh snow, take shorter walks as it puts a lot of additional strain on the dog’s muscles.
4. Watch out for ice
Be very careful of the icy spots. Katie sees them herself and treads carefully. Mom often holds her collar up to help keep her from falling. Your senior dog may start going to the bathroom on the asphalt because they can grip better than on the snow and ice. Mom actually loves that because it is easier to clean up! Even when you do the best you can to help your senior dog, they will fall from time to time. Katie fell last week on our front step and got a nice gash on her nose right under her eye. We all felt terrible, but other than wrapping her in bubble wrap, there is only so much we can do to protect her.
5. Increasing the heart rate
Since Katie walks slow, and likes to keep stopping to smell things, Mom was frustrated because she wasn’t getting a real workout. By accident, Mom discovered if she walks backwards, Katie focuses on her, walks faster, and has better form. Of course, this can only be done where you are sure there isn’t any traffic to run you over, but around our area where we walk, it works great on walking trails and less busy neighborhood streets.
What about footwear? Katie has never had sensitive paws. She used to wear boots when she was out after it snowed because of the salt, but these days, the boots really make it hard for her to walk, so she no longer wears them. Katie also wears toe grips for traction on our wooden floors in the house. We are pleased to say, they stay on so well! Katie wears them 24/7, indoors and out and they hold up great. We think they even provide a bit of extra grip on icy surfaces.
Walking a senior dog in the winter can be a great activity for you and your dog. Katie loves winter, but can no longer play in the snow. Walking is a good way for her to get out in the snow a little bit and get some exercise as well. Be sure and check out our 8 Tips for a Fit Senior Dog post from last fall. I shared a few of the things we find really work well to keep Katie happy and healthy.
I’m co hosting the FitDog Friday Blog Hop with SlimDoggy, and To Dog With Love! Please join us on Fridays to share your fitness stories with others, find new ways to have fun, and new fitness ideas too! Tell your friends to stop by as well – fit dogs are healthier, happier dogs!