Downeast Dog News

Preparing Your Dog for Winter & the Holidays

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Nov 01, 2020
Photo by: Debra Bell

As the days get short, the temperatures drop, and the snow flies, we need to take some extra measures to ensure our dogs will be safe and comfortable.

• With decreasing daylight, both you and your dog may be less visible on early morning and late afternoon walks. An orange vest or reflective coat will help make you both more visible and safe.

• If your dog gets wet in the rain or snow, dry him off with a towel when he comes back inside.

• Once the temperature drops below 20 degrees, it's time to bring your dog indoors. When he is outdoors, make sure he is not exposed to the cold for extended periods.

• Shorter haired dogs, those acclimated to warmer climates, and senior dogs may need a coat to stay comfortable when it gets cold outside.

• When your dog is indoors, make sure he has a warm, dry spot that is away from drafts. Tile floors and uncarpeted areas may become cold and uncomfortable.

• If you have a long-haired dog, make sure you keep him groomed and free of mats and tangles. While long hair will act as an insulator, it loses its insulating properties when it becomes matted.

• If your dog has long hair on its feet or in between his pads, have your groomer trim that hair, so it does not accumulate snow when your dog is outdoors.

• Avoid walking your dog on areas that have been treated with salt or any deicer. Afterward, always wipe your dog's feet and pads with a damp cloth. You may want to consider using one of the dog safe products for melting ice.

• Be careful if your dog has access to frozen ponds or streams. He can slip, or the ice can break, and he can fall in.

• Crusty snow and ice can have sharp edges that can cut some of the thinner skinned breeds' skin and pads.

• Be very careful of supplemental heating sources, especially those with a flame. Fireplaces and portable heaters can severely burn your dog. Make sure all fireplaces have screens and keep portable heaters out of reach.

• Make sure your wood is stacked securely so that your dog cannot cause it to fall over.

Dealing with the Holidays

November and December are typically filled with opportunities for us to gather with family and friends. With COVID, that might not be the case this year, but nevertheless, the holidays may still be a hectic time of year for us, as well as our dogs. Dogs do not always enjoy meeting new people or the frenetic activity that often comes with any holiday gathering. Due to COVID, they may be out of the practice of being around people, so please consider that.

• Recognize that if the holidays and 2020, in general, are stressing you out, your dog will pick up on your distress, and it may negatively affect their behavior. Make sure that both you and your dog have a quiet, comfortable hideaway for some down time. Sometimes boarding your dog can make the holiday more enjoyable for them, you, and your guests.

• Dogs do not make good holiday gifts, especially if the person receiving the gift is not aware of it. If you want to get a dog-related gift for someone, give that person a book on selecting a dog or a leash or a toy or a gift certificate for the dog to come.

• Many holiday plants such as holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous to dogs. Make sure they are someplace where your dog cannot get to them.

• Be cautious about where you leave holiday gifts, especially those with food inside. A misplaced box of chocolates can kill a dog. Candy and other holiday treats sweetened with Xylitol can also be fatal when dogs ingest them.

• Keep lights and fragile ornaments off the lower branches of your holiday tree where your dog can get to them.

• Ensure all electrical cords for holiday lights and decorations are located where your dog will not become entangled in them or attempt to chew on them.

• Avoid using edible ornaments on your tree.

• Tinsel can be very attractive to dogs and cats and can also be fatal if ingested.



Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their dogs since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Dog Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all dogs. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.