1.20.2011

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful!: Cold Weather Equipment for City People and City Dogs

Here in Boston, we experience several seasons, one of them colder and yuckier than the rest (Sadie, as usual, disagrees.) We have a cold weather dog, and a dog that detests the frigid New England temperatures. Additionally, when you live in the city, there are many different things to consider: walking on concrete sidewalks, especially when covered in a sheet of ice is VERY challenging - and I don't know about you, but the gloves I wear never keep my hands warm and I can't open poop bags (another "city" phenomenon....I never HEARD of a poop bag when I lived in Maine!)

So here are a few tips for winterizing yourself when you live in the City and need to adventure out with your dogs, not matter what the weather!

Muttens:
I have some wonderful friends that thought of me last winter around Christmas time. I take their dogs out for a walk around lunchtime a few times a week, and had let it slip in passing that opening poop bags with gloved fingers is damned near impossible, not to mention when it's particularly windy out, gloves just simply don't keep your fingers warm the way mittens do. Have you ever tried to open a poop bag with mittens? If you take the mittens off to open the bag, your hand freezes. Well, some clever soul created Muttens, and they were my Christmas gift last year - a thumbless mitten that keeps your entire hand toasty warm, with an opening at the top for your hand to easily slide out of to open poo bags, or open doors.

The fleece continues to cover the back of your hands, protecting from the wind, even when part of your hand is exposed. If you walk with a retractable leash (I hope you don't in the city!), you can hold the leash in the Mutten with your hand completely covered by the warm fleece. I didn't need to wear any additional gloves with the Muttens, and I usually wear 2 pairs of gloves when I go out walking with dogs. Absolutely the best way to walk your dogs, and stay warm. Click here for the Muttens website

Yak Tracks
I slip and fall ALL the time on the sidewalks. Some people don't shovel the sidewalk in front of their apartment, some only shovel and don't throw salt down which leaves an icy walking surface where dogs and people can get hurt. A shop owner recommended I try Yak Tracks. You can get them at most hardware stores. Basically, they are a rubber slip on with steel coils underneath to help you get grip. I haven't fallen once since I started wearing these for walking dogs. When dogs pull on the leash on an icy patch, I can still keep my balance because the steel digs into the ice, giving the wearer a grip. I absolutely recommend these for anyone that is prone to falling, or out on icy sidewalks for more than 2 steps. Plus, they are easy on/easy off. I keep them in my car, they slide over my boots and sneakers (the rubber is self adjustable like an elastic band, so no adjusting needed for different shoe types), and I'm ready to go in 15 seconds. Be particularly careful wearing them in the house, though - steel and tile don't mix! Yak Tracks info here


What about my dogs? How do I keep them safe and comfortable?
Snow, salt and ice kept getting up in the pads of his feet, creating microcuts in the pad. Zeppelin finally just stopped walking entirely in the winter. Salt, though good for people to walk more comfortably is incredibly painful for dogs to walk on, and it's a part of living in the city. What can you do to help your pup?

Boots
Now, keep in mind I come from a dog-sledding family, and boots on our dogs was part of their running equipment to protect their paws from sticks, rocks, and frostbite on longer runs. The boots I see in the city with lace and slippery bottoms are strictly for show, plus they don't stay on. Ruffwear does make a great boot for city use - they fit snugly around the foot, and are completely utilitarian. I have several clients that use them and praise them heavily. NOW, keep in mind that not all dog feet are created equally. Sadie has very small feet and very little for the boot to grab onto around her ankle. Even though she's comfortable with boots on, and will wear them without complaint, she throws boots when she runs after Frisbees. Labs, who have a big foot and small ankle, would do better with this type of boot.Our problem was with Zeppelin, who will not walk with boots on, no matter what we tried, and he's super-sensitive to the ice/salt mix on the sidewalks. After three years of trying to find the right equipment for him, we decided to try....

...Mushers Secret, a wax that creates a thin protective layer on the dogs pads and feet. It prevents snow and ice from building up inside the pads, and even seems to help with the salt problems. I equate it to Chapstick, for dogs feet. It won't protect against frostbite, or tons of salt, but it does help quite a bit. Since we have used it, Zeppy has gone from walking 4 blocks maximum to a full 2 mile loop every morning. I admit, I was hesitant to use this product in the city. We used it on the Huskies because they were on powder snow and never encounter salt, which I thought would stick to the wax, creating more damage, but it is working for our particular dog who will not wear boots, and I'm very happy we found something that works.

If you have any other suggestions, or great products for winterizing people or dogs for city life, feel free to leave a comment!