It's snow big deal
Recently, I awoke to a blanket of fresh fallen snow. For me, the snow wasn't a welcome sight because it means shoveling and cleaning off cars. However, there was a bark of rejoicing from one family member that made me wonder why do dogs love snow?
I know there are some dogs out there that prefer the warm and cozy indoors. They barely make it out the door or off their porch to "do their business" and then scurry back inside in record time. These dogs, I understand.
My brother's (almost) two-year-old black Labrador, Goose, is at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to snow. He ran outside to the new, white, cold stuff with the glee of a child on Christmas morning. He ran at lightning speed up to the top of the hill in the yard, proceeded to flop down on his back and slide and roll down to the bottom. Goose dove head-first into the deeper areas like he was looking for treasure. He bound through the yard, hopping not quite like a bunny, but more like a kangaroo. My nieces threw snowballs at him which he tried to retrieve but ultimately smashed into little pieces. For Goose, it truly is a winter wonderland.
What brings on this excitement? If only we could ask them. Scientifically, there are a few reasons dogs might love snow. It could simply be due to the change in the environment causing brain stimulation. It turns their yard into a brand-new place to play and explore. They may enjoy the sensory aspect of the cold on their bodies or the way snow feels on their noses and paws.
Smells are different also as old scents are covered and new markings are attractive to dogs. It is as much fun as it is work for them to go on a mission to find the source of these new scents.
For whatever reason some dogs are enamored with snow, there are also reasons some dogs aren't fans. This is especially true for small dogs who must plod through piles of snow and deal with it rubbing against their bare bellies. Some dogs have sensitive paw pads and the cold makes it difficult to walk. They may also have longer fur in between their toes that develop ice balls from the snow and make walking uncomfortable. Senior dogs may not care for snow because the cold weather aggravates arthritis. It could simply be due to thermoregulation and certain dogs don't stay warm enough in the snow.
No matter how your pup feels about snow, there are some winter precautions to consider. Check their paws and pads for ice chunks or injury from the frozen ground. If your dog has tender feet or is prone to paw issues in the winter consider booties or a balm that is created to help protect paws from ice, salt and winter elements.
If your dog has long fur in between their toes, keep the hair trimmed so they are less apt to have problems with the formation of ice balls on their paws.
Be sure to keep your dog well hydrated in the winter months, especially if he is a snow-lover. All the extra play in the cold causes your dog to lose electrolytes just as they do in the warmer months. Your dog will need plenty of water to replenish those electrolytes.
If your dog has short or no hair or spends much of his time indoors, consider a coat or sweater for him to wear during his time outdoors.
Hopefully, your dog shares the same feelings about snow as you do. It's going to be a long winter. Whether it is a day playing outdoors or curled up inside under a blanket, may it be a day that you and your dog spend happily together.
The author is a certified veterinary technician.