(ARA) - Even the best behaved-dog can temporarily forget his manners when faced with the many distractions of going on a walk. When the ground is covered with snow and ice, Fido's momentary lapse can mean a nasty fall for you. Properly equipping yourself - and taking some safety precautions - can help ensure you stay on your feet, and that your walk remains enjoyable for both you and your best friend.
Here are some tips for walking your dog in wintery weather:
* Don't stay home - Both you and your dog need exercise, and just letting Fido out into the backyard to do his business doesn't help your health. A daily walk helps to provide both of you with excellent cardiovascular exercise, and also gets you out into the fresh air. So even as the weather gets colder, help keep you and your dog healthy with daily walks.
* Leash training - Larger dogs make great pets, especially for seniors who struggle to bend over to pet smaller breeds. But if your dog isn't leash trained, he could give you great difficulty in managing him and the winter elements. Take him to obedience classes and work with him so he knows not to pull when you're out for short and long walks. As the weather chills and snow and ice build up on your traditional walking routes, you'll be able to carefully negotiate tricky spots without having to worry about being pulled off balance.
* Dress for the weather - You're probably already going to be layering up to stay warm, but don't forget proper footwear - for both you and your dog. Dog booties can help protect your pet's feet from the deicer chemicals that can hurt and crack the pads of his feet. Booties also help prevent ice from building up in the fur around his toes.
For your feet, you need gear to keep you from sliding around on the ice. STABILicers ice cleats go on over your shoes or boots, providing you super traction - and even better footing than your dog. Sold by retailers nationwide including L.L. Bean and Cabela's, these ice cleats are durable and light, and can fit easily in a pocket or glove compartment for easy transport. For Scott Kelley of Peaks Island, Maine, STABILicers
allowed him to walk his dog even after shoulder surgery and physical therapy.
"The idea of falling on the ice after surgery and all that physical therapy was too much to bear," Kelley says. "So I put STABILicers on my boots and wore them all winter, even if the roads and sidewalks were clear, because the dog still needs to be walked, and there is always that one rogue patch of ice lurking in the shadows."
* Practice safety - Since the daylight hours are shorter during the winter months, make sure you wear light clothing with reflective material, and carry a flashlight during your walks to help drivers see you in the dark. Also let someone know where you're going on your walk, and your anticipated time of return.
Getting out of the house, breathing in the fresh air and seeing the sun reflecting off the glittering snow - the winter months can bring so much enjoyment to you and your dog on your daily walks. And since, with STABILicers on your feet, you don't have to worry about falling down, you may soon find yourself joining Fido in chasing squirrels, just for the fun of it.