Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Going for a lovely brisk walk with your faithful friend can be an uplifting experience, especially if it is in our beautiful, Highland countryside. Research, by psychologists suggests that humans get just as much satisfaction as their dogs from their walks and that dog walking can actually make us feel happy!
From surveys it has been found that the biggest motivation for pet owners to go walking was the positive effect it had on their emotional and mental health and was one of the biggest drives to get out there. Owners felt their mood lifted when they felt that they were also making their pet happier too.
Regular walking can keep us fit and healthy and improve our mood and will keep your dog happy and in good trim too. Some walks that are normally busy with summer tourists are often blissfully quiet in winter. So it can be a great time to explore some new walks in different areas.
Here are some tips for winter walks with your dog.
Wear warm, suitable, high-visibility gear. Putting a reflective or flashing collar with a bell on your dog will enable you to see and hear him easily, particularly when he is off the lead. When walking in the dark, keep your dog on a lead and try to use familiar routes. Always carry a torch so that you can see your route and where your dog is.
In case your dog does get spooked and run off, do ensure that he is microchipped and that all the relevant contact details are up to date.
During the winter months, avoid leaving your dog in your car after a walk in the cold and damp, making him vulnerable to hypothermia. On winter walks pack plenty doggy towels and blankets. After each winter walk, towel dry your dog well, checking through his coat and paws and pads and wipe him and his paws down with warm water when you get home.
Never allow your dog to walk out on frozen ponds as the ice might not be thick enough to take his full weight.
Don't ask older dogs to do more than they are capable of. Regular, more curtailed, shorter walks on more even ground are much better for them.
Check the forecast before setting out on a walk so that you are prepared for the pending weather conditions. If snow starts to fall heavily, recall your dog and put him on a lead. Heavy snow can actually affect his sense of smell, disorientating him and putting him at risk of losing you. Also always let someone know where you intend to go on your walk before you leave remembering to take your mobile phone and check that it is fully charged.