How to deal with the winter blahs...
These mornings, with the temp hovering around zero, my dogs poke only their noses out the open door before giving me that look. The one that says, “can't we just go back to bed?” Once they see that I'm really, irrevocably, up, they toddle off to curl in their dog beds before the gas fireplace, as close as they can get without actually igniting.
Once the sun is up enough to feel a few therms, they venture out, forgetting to be grumpy when the squirrels tease them into racing and leaping. During the few hours of sunshine, they're happy to play outdoors; and content, again, to lounge by the fire through long evenings between supper and bedtime. But when we get those dark, cold days with no sun and little respite from the cold, they – and I – get restless. I can always pick up a book or watch a movie, but these pastimes do nothing for the dogs or the cats. There is that other look: “we're bored, do something!”
Did you know that January has been dubbed “National Train Your Dog Month” - by whoever thinks these things up? And it's perfect for dealing with the mid-winter blahs, the touch of cabin fever. There is good evidence that learning something new burns calories, allows for a satisfying expenditure of energy, dispels restlessness and boredom, and on really ugly-weather days, can effectively substitute for physical activity. And that's not even counting the benefits of what is learned! The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and your dog or cat (yes, cats, too!) physical capability. Teaching your dog to use his nose to find hidden toys and treats leads to infinitely variable fun and games!
Check in with us to learn about fun mini classes and events throughout the winter to relieve the cabin fever that sets in every year (if you're not a skier.)
Pet parents often ask if dogs and cats need more calories to keep warm in the frigid season, and I always answer, It depends... It depends on how much time the pet spends outdoors, and how they spend that time. If they accompany you on a two hour hike every afternoon all year round, but spend the rest of the time (minus bathroom breaks) in the house, they won't need much, if any, more chow. They may well need some extra omega 3 fatty acids to compensate for dry indoor and outdoor air, though! Good sources are fatty fish: salmon, sardines, or their oil, which we carry at High Tails. Canned salmon makes a good weekly addition to the diet, or you can really give them a thrill by serving Primal frozen raw sardines once or twice a week. Dogs who spend many hours outdoors while you're at work, but much of it resting in a dog house rather than exercising, may need up to double the calories, just for warmth. If so, high quality fats are healthier additions than extra carbs. Good fats range from 80 to 120 calories per Tb, and include butter, coconut oil, fish oils – but work up slowly as too much fat all at once can upset tummies. Marrow bones are also excellent sources of nutritious marrow (high fat) as well as being good for the teeth and an entertainment as well. Be aware that cooked fat is much harder for animals to digest than raw fats, and can cause pancreatitis in susceptible pets. Home made bone broth is an excellent way to enhance meals for cats and dogs, as well as to warm them up and make food more palatable.
Winter Grooming and Fashion
All dogs and cats shed! The ones reputed not to have coats that capture the shed hairs instead of allowing them to fall out, and these dogs need regular brushing in order not to matt. Double-coated dogs, and cats, benefit from brushing in other ways, too. The stimulation keeps the skin pliable and distributes natural oils, and brushed hair insulates better from the cold, much the way fluffing out feathers keeps birds warm.
As for bathing, indoor pollution and outside contaminants like mag chloride, salt, sludge, etc do need to be removed from time to time, and a good bath is a fine idea. If your dog has any body odor, he needs one! At High Tails, we've got three tub stations where you can clean him in comfort, and leave all the mess behind. You only need to bring the dirty dog – every thing else is supplied, and we'll be glad to give you pointers on how to make best use of the grooming equipment.
We also offer professional grooming with day and weekend appointments available. To schedule, just call us at 970-947-0014.
Foot care is the most important aspect of protection for dogs who like to brave the elements to take exercise. High Tails carries Mushers Secret, a paw wax that protects the pads from ice balls, salt and chemicals. It lasts for several days per application and can help with traction indoors, as well as healing dry, sore and cracked paws. More protection is needed if your dog does not want to go out in the cold, or pitifully holds up one paw after another when it is really cold. While High Tails no longer carries hard goods, we recommend Pawz -- little rubber balloon-like foot coverings that slip on easily, stay on well, and keep ice from forming balls on the bottoms of the feet. For many dogs, their thin coating is enough for everyday use. They come in packages of 12, are very affordable (under $20) and semi-disposable. Most dogs easily acclimate to them. The RuffWear boots are the gold standard of foot gear, coming in three types. Skyliners are light-weight, with a velcro strap and a thin rubber sole, water resistant uppers and a soft cuff.. GripTrex have heavily lugged Vibram soles for traction and protection from all kinds of terrain, hot and cold surfaces, and long hours of wear. PolarTrex are higher, with upper fasteners to keep out snow and rubber soles designed for traction on ice. They are lined with fleece for warmth and water resistant. The best course is to fit the dog in person. If that isn't possible, put a piece of paper under one front foot, hold up the other, and mark the front, back and sides. Measure the length and width of the foot between your marks. Look to see if the difference in size between the front and back feet is great. If so, measure a back foot as well. For some reason, dog shoes come in 4 identicals per set, while all dogs have at least a slight front to back foot difference. You may have to add socks to the back feet, but always use the front foot measurement to ensure getting big enough boots.
Dog Day Care
Another antidote to boredom and cabin fever, day care gives dogs social and exercise opportunities in a safe environment among loving caretakers and friendly dogs. We offer day care on a single-day basis, or for frequent visitors we have multi-visit passes that bring the cost down considerably. The requirements are that dogs be sociable with other dogs and people. We don't exclude intact dogs, but females can't come while they are in heat. The only important criterion is behavior: some male dogs are constant urine markers (the solution is to have him wear a belly band) or display domineering behavior in the group. We are experienced in training appropriate behavior and facilitating groups that are fun for all – but occasionally we do have to exclude a dog for problem behavior. We always keep owners appraised of issues and how we are working with them, and what might be done at home to improve this. And we can refer to the most appropriate training resources if the dog has to be suspended from day care for awhile.
There are some dogs who just don't like other dogs. They may be fearful, elderly and apprehensive, or just inexperienced reading other dogs' body language. Because we do not have individual kennels, our day care is not appropriate for these dogs. But we can suggest other accommodations better suited to them.
Reserve a day care spot by phoning 970-947-0014 at least a day ahead. We happily accept same day visits, but we are small and could be full.