Dogs and Snow -- 

-- Experienced owners answer the three toughest questions.

(Did you find the dog in the snow above? The clue is to follow this white Lowchen's tail)

Dogs and snow is a concept that's personally foreign to me. I haven't lived with winter snow and ice since the late 70's. But when I gave a Silky named Robbie to my sister in Halifax Nova Scotia several years ago, she started to call me with questions. So we did our research.

The first question we looked into was:

What to do about sidewalk salt?

The obvious answer is booties, because they would protect Robbie's paws. But we quickly found out that they were almost impossible to put on a small, wiggly dog. She and I struggled with this, but recently I found a great video: How to Put Booties On.

Eventually she found that washing her buddy's paws right when he came inside did the trick. She told me that it was labor intensive, but if it was done before the snow had a chance to melt, Robbie didn't suffer from the salt.

We found that a coat can sometimes be helpful, but that once Robbie acclimatised to the cold weather, he prefered "au natural", just like a kid who would rather operate without bulky mittens. Of course if he had been an Italian Greyhound or a hairless breed he would have needed to keep the coat no matter what -- they do not have enough natural coverage to stay warm.

I also asked some dogs and snow savvy friends:

"What do you think of winter booties and coats?"

David Arnholt (Silky Terriers):

"I don't use either the boots or jacket. I set a timer for two minutes and the dogs are usually barking to come in at the one minute mark. I tried the boots and they hate them. If the ground is bare and the spot is out of the wind they do not seem to have any problems. Having said all that, I do keep a close eye on them."

Katherine Roll (it's her camoflaged Lowchen in the picture above):

"I don't use clothes of any kind, but I do put a lot of oil in my dogs' coats to keep the snow from forming balls."

Pictured above is a friend's backyard in western Massachusetts; they plow a path so their dog has a spot to go.

Some owners have told me that they pull out the wee wee pads and keep their dogs inside when the weather outside gets too frightful and so avoid the snow situation entirely. I can see their point during a storm, but I don't think I'd like to have my dogs cooped up month after month. I asked a the same friends: 

"How do you potty your dogs in a snowy backyard?"

David Arnholt:

"We take our snowblower into the backyard and clear off an area for the dogs. It only takes a few minutes and we have snow on the ground at least five months of the year."

Katherine Roll:

"I shovel a patch and then watch them run around in the deep stuff anyhow. I do have one that is happy to have the patch."

I personally like to watch snow from a distance (my hometown in Clearwater, FL) but if you have to deal with snow on a regular basis, these are all great ideas.

Thanks to David, Katherine and my sister for their experienced input.

The Silkys below (from Sweden) obviously enjoy their snowy environment. So maybe there is something to be said for dogs and snow!

What do YOU think?

Usually opinion pages are all about politics or the latest scandal. But this Op Ed will be about small dogs and will be about the things that are important to you.

This is your chance to let the world know what you think.

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