December has come around once again, and with it comes a period of freezing temperatures, icy weather and long, dark nights. For humans, this is fine. We have warm clothes, central heating and the prospect of christmas to get us through the winter. However, for dogs it is a little different.

It can be more of a challenge looking after a dog in the winter. The cold weather brings with it hazards that you as a dog owner need to bear in mind. Some are very obvious, however others can catch you unawares. Furthermore, some aspects of dog ownership that are a breeze in summer become harder in winter, as you struggle to get your dog enough exercise.

Your dog still needs walking even with the cold weather, and you will find that they warm up quickly if you make their walks a little more vigorous. If you have an area of safe open space near you then it might be a good idea to spend your time outdoors playing fetch with your dog rather than simply having them walk.

The more vigorous exercise will warm them up faster. Try to get your dog to run more, without pushing them too hard. However, this approach usually means that you will get less exercise while your dog is sprinting around, so be sure to wrap up nice and warm.

However, the winter brings with it safety hazards once you get your dog outdoors, with darker days and low visibility becoming a danger. Carlie Horsley from canine charity Dogs Trust said: “Always try to walk your dog in the light and wear fluorescent clothing to ensure you can be seen by drivers.”

If your dog has longer hair, then let it grow out its winter coat. This may need a brush now and again. However, short-haired dogs, as well as puppies and older dogs, may find the cold too much to cope with outdoors. If your dog starts shivering when you take them outside, then it may be time to think about getting them a coat. Be sure to make it a high-visibility coat for maximum safety.

If you are walking your dog, be aware of the hazards around you. Frozen bodies of water, for example, can be very dangerous to you and your dog. Ms Horsley said: “Do not let your dog walk on frozen ponds - the ice may not be thick enough to take his weight. If your dog does fall through the ice never be tempted to go in after them but encourage them to swim back to you.”

You should also be careful in snow. Your dog may love playing about in it, however you need to keep a close eye on them. Ms Horsley pointed out that dogs can easily get lost in snow, as it “can be disorientating and can affect a dog’s sense of smell”. She recommended making sure “your dog is microchipped and wearing an ID tag”.

Finally, Ms Horsley added that during the cold winter months “a specialist diet might be required” for your dog. Aim for the most nutritious brand of premium dog food to keep your dog’s immune system strong, and ensure they stay healthy for Christmas. Just like people, dogs are far happier dealing with the cold when they are well-fed.

Written by: Hannah