Q: I moved with my dog from Southern California to Wisconsin. It's starting to get a lot colder than we're used to. What should I do to make sure my dog is prepared for winter?
A: First things first: Provide protective gear as needed. Lots of people object to dogs wearing clothes, but short-haired or thin-skinned dogs such as greyhounds or pugs don't have much fur or fat for insulation. It's a real kindness to provide them with a warm coat or sweater to protect them from the elements. Not every dog needs a winter coat. Nordic breeds like Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies love the cold and snow and will happily dig themselves a snow cave to relax in.
Whether your dog needs booties depends on similar factors. If it walks on streets or sidewalks that have been treated with salts to melt ice, booties will protect its feet from chemicals. And longhair dogs often get snow or ice balls between their foot pads. They may need booties, as well, or you can try clipping the hair so there's less opportunity for ice balls to form.
When your dog plays outdoors, make sure it has a sheltered area where it will be protected from wind and snow. How long should your dog stay outside? Once it's accustomed to the new climate, it can stay outdoors as long as it wants, as long as it has a place of shelter.
Finally, never let your dog off-leash in an unfenced area. One hazard dogs face in winter is being hit by a car because the driver's vision is limited by snow piled on the sides of the road.
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