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11 Tips to keeping your dog safe and warm this winter.

All anyone can talk about right now is the weather...this polar vortex is making life very difficult for everyone in its path. We’re sitting in Chicago, under tons of snow and the threat of -28 temps and -60 wind chills coming in a few days.

It’s enough to make me want to curl up in my fuzzy blanket under the fire and never come out. At least not till spring.

But as uncomfortable, and, in reality, dangerous, as this storm is for us, we can’t forget about how it endangers our fur babies, however big or small. My little Isaac is all of 10 lbs and he has to go outside to do his business, as most dogs do. He'll try and hold it, try not go out in the cold because his tiny body can’t keep him warm long. But, of course, he'll have to go and it's my job to make it as safe and comfortable as possible for him. Knowing I have this responsibility, I had question.

How cold is too cold? Does he really have to go out? How can I make his outside trips safer? What do I need to watch out for? All these questions and more swirl around my head and I’m betting you might be asking some of the same ones.

I’ve gathered some tips to help you with your fur baby. With these tips, some good old common sense and a good dash of caution, we’ll all get through this safe and sound and can get back to regular winter weather. I’m looking forward to some 30 degree days right about now. Much of this is applicable to the whole season, not just this storm, so it's all good info to keep in mind.

1: keep your dog inside

If your dog normally stays outside, bring him in. It’s just not safe out there with the temperature drops and icy winds. Make a space for him somewhere in the house to ensure his safety. A dog house will not protect him. Hypothermia can affect dogs too and it's just as dangerous for them as for us.

2: puppy pads

If you can get your dog, especially the tiny ones, to go indoors, say on a puppy pad, do it! My Isaac won’t use them but then again he never would as a pup either. 

3: bundle him up

Put a jacket on your fur baby when he goes out to do his business. There are a variety of options available, some warmer than others. I wouldn’t dream about stepping out for even a few seconds without a coat; I can’t expect my little guy to do it either. 

4: cover those footsies

Get your pup some boots or simply put some socks on him. You can secure the socks with rubber bands and they should work great for protecting those sensitive paws for the few minutes he needs to be out there.

5: let him know it's ok to go

Does your dog look at you like you’re crazy when you open the door to the winter madness? Yup, I get that look too. Carve out some space for your pup to go. Dig out a grassy area, make a small path leading to a potty spot. Make it easy for your dog to get out there and quickly do his business. You don’t want him to spend any more time out there than necessary. 

6: protect the paws

Going for a walk? Protect your dog’s paws with a protective butter. The salt, sand, and chemicals used to keep the sidewalks clear of ice are not good for your pup’s paws! A butter like this (you can use Body Balm or  Pure Benefit Intensive Balm in a pinch) will form a layer that protects their paws from irritation. 

RECIPE: Combine mango or shea butter with the same amount of oil (the dryer the oil, the less oily the blend will be) and slowly melt together on very low heat. Once melted, remove from heat and stir until cooled. Pop into fridge for a few hours and then leave at room temp, ready for you to scoop out and apply to puppy!

7: keep him clean

Make sure to wipe his paws clean after you come in. Tracking the deicing gunk into the house or letting it stay on his paws where he can lick it is just asking for trouble.  

8: dry off the snow

Make sure you clean the ice and snow off of his hair. Snow tends to clump on my dog’s hair and if not cleaned off, it slowly melts and keeps him feeling chilly far longer than necessary. Dry with a towel or, if need be, with a blowdryer on very low heat.

9: watch what he licks

Don’t let him lick at the salt and other deicing things all over the place. It is toxic for your dog. He'll be curious and licking is how they learn about new things but you'll want to keep a close eye on him and stop him from doing so.

10: keep antifreeze away

Keep antifreeze away from anywhere your dog can get to it. It smells sweet and will draw him in but it is deadly.

11: steer clear of water

Keep those pups away from ponds and other bodies of water. They can fall in, just as we can, and that is definitely not a good thing.