Cold Weather Dog Problems
Cold Weather Dog Problems That Most People Don’t Want to Talk About, Much Less Understand
The number one thing that I have learned about myself in the past 20+ years of dog training, is that the more that time ticks by, the more like a dog I become.
I swear it is almost instinctual for me to just think like a dog, now.
When I was new at this, I am sure I spent time perplexed by odd dog training and behavioral problems.
Now, I swear I relate to the puppy training problem like a true dog.
I guess that means I am not only good at what I do, but I also like what I do.
And, I have said it before… the WHY a dog does something is important only because it helps you to understand and relate to them just a little bit.
Understanding WHY doesn’t mean that the behavior still is not a problem; it probably is a problem, but hopefully it helps you to understand that you are dealing with a different species and to perhaps slow down, teach and communicate more effectively as you work together toward changing the behavior.
So let’s talk about some of these odd cold weather problems your dog might be suffering from!
He Hates His Coat, But He Is Cold Outside
There are many companion dogs that simply aren’t built for the cold!
Many of them are small dogs.
Many of them are short haired dogs.
And, some of them are simply skinny dogs with very little fat.
Obviously, the less fat a dog has the less apt it is to warm itself in the cold.
Generic dog coats can be uncomfortable for your dog.
I mean how many times can you go and buy a pair of small, medium or large jeans and they will fit your body perfectly?
Now, people are built pretty much like one another, in general.
Comparatively, dogs come in a million sizes. Yet we expect a SM, MD, LG to fit our dogs, comfortably.
Another thing to consider…
Humans wear clothes every day, well at least most of us.
Dogs, dogs just don’t.
Clothes in and of themselves can be uncomfortable to your dog.
If you think your dog needs a cute coat or sweater, consider having one made specifically for his actual body. You can take measurements and send them to people who will make these coats specifically for your dog.
Heck, my dog has a custom swim suit ;)
Don’t put them on for long periods of time, they can irritate the skin.
Recently I saw a Great Dane with sores on the inside of her elbow because she spent so much time with a coat on, in the house and out of the house.
But also, don’t just put them on when you want your dog to go potty in the cold.
I know that is confusing, but use the coat occasionally at other times like when you feed your dog or play with your dog so the coat is associated with something positive.
If your dog gets cold, but absolutely hates his coat, try exercises before you go outside. Play ball inside or have him do pushups (sit, down, sit, down, sit etc.) to warm his body.
You know how when you get out of doing a really hard work out at the gym, the cold weather almost feels good… that is the feeling you are working toward, so work his body hard and fast!
Your Dog Thinks You In A Puffy Coat Is A Chew Toy
This is pretty classic!
And, not just for protection trained dogs!
I and other protection dog trainers and handlers have to take this a little more seriously, because in the winter several people look like they are wearing “bite suits”.
Think about it, you look like a giant puffy toy!
And, the noise those coats make while people shuffle around in them is undoubtedly hilariously fun for your dog.
If you think about it, usually when your dog sees you in a coat like this you are also doing something fun like taking him on a walk, or out sledding or out to play so he associates the sight and the sounds with fun things.
If your dog jumps, nips, nibbles or bites you in your coat, even if you think that it is funny; don’t laugh. This is something that can escalate to not being funny very quickly.
And, although dogs don’t “laugh”, they understand laughter and smiling and behaviors that show how happy we humans are in the moment. So, don’t do it!
Use a leash.
Put your dog on a leash and put your coat on, if he misbehaves make him lie down or sit.
He can’t jump up and bite your coat if he is lying down.
He may simply need to understand that he has to respect the coat and that you are INDEED inside of it!
If his obedience is not good enough to lay down, you can use your foot on the leash, but you need to work on his obedience!
He Bites Your Mittens
I suppose to you, this sounds a lot like the previous example, and it certainly can be similar.
But we come straight at our dogs with our hands.
Think about it, you pet your dog with your hands, you grasp his leash with your hands, you hold his food and treats with your hands.
Gloves don’t really look or smell like hands.
I mean to us, humans, they look like hands but dogs get wrapped up in the way things smell and feel as well as look.
The best way to work on this is actually working on the leave it command.
A down command with your dog obedience would also work to some degree, but again, you use your hands to maneuver your dog so often it would be a bit awkward.
A quick cheat is using a bit of bitter apple spray, but this is probably going to work as a total fix. And, having wet gloves from being sprayed kind of defeats the purpose (but of course you can work on the behavior without going out in the cold).
I have seen lots of cute videos online with dogs chasing and nipping at sleds.
I recently saw one where the dog, knocks the kid out of the sled and then jumps on and sleds down the hill.
And, as cute as these look… most of them aren’t.
A lot of the time Kids X Dogs X Fast Moving Objects = can equal disaster.
Sure, there are dogs with no prey drive and those with no protective instinct when it comes to their kids, but that isn’t the case for many dogs.
Prey drive is pretty natural. This is the drive that your dog would use if he needed to chase and kill his meal.
Our pet dogs don’t need to kill their food, but they still have instincts when things move fast.
They don’t understand why they MUST kill the sled, but the instinct remains.
And, there are some dogs that are literally scared for the safety of the children in their pack.
Either way, running and chasing after fast moving children and fast moving objects can spell dangerous disaster for both.
Your dog could be seriously injured.
And, your dog could seriously injure your children, even inadvertently.
If you must take your dog, or you want to see if your dog has an issue with this kind of activity, keep your dog on a leash.
Make sure your dog has good obedience so that you can give him a command if he gets agitated or over excited.
And, be prepared to take the dog home.
When I trained service dogs and took them out in public all of the time, I knew if a dog ever had a big problem with something I would have to leave whatever I was doing to take care of the needs of my dog.
Didn’t matter if I had Superbowl tickets or had just driven 3 hours to a special event. If you willingly bring your dog, you have a responsibility to your dog.
If you don’t want to miss the Superbowl or a special event don’t risk taking your dog!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.