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Getting Your Dog Ready for Winter: Winterising Your Pup

Finally! The cooler weather is on its way to eastern Australia – the leaves have started falling, the mornings are crisp, and the winter chill will soon creeping in. For those of us with Fidos, that means it’s time to break out the cold weather gear if they enjoy wearing it, and get our pups ready for the cooler months ahead.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – getting your dog to willingly wear a jacket, jumper or raincoat can feel like an uphill battle. Some dogs just don’t like wearing them and that’s OK. Don’t force them to wear something that they find punishing,

Sometimes your pooch has to wear something for their wellbeing. Maybe even a muzzle or a cone of shame after they’ve had surgery. Brockasauraus has to wear a beanie and scarf because he has a degenerative neck injury that we need to keep warm during the colder months. He also is a bindi magnet in spring so he wears boots to protect his delicate little (cough) feet, and doggy sunglasses to protect his eyes as he has starburst pupils and no eyeliner. I had to train with Brock to make sure that he was comfortable wearing these things. Yes, he’s even muzzle trained.

On the other paw, Stan Lee loves playing dress up. He willingly wears his sunglasses, skirts, shirts and pants. He thinks he looks pretty cool wearing his rashy shirt to protect him from the sun. If I don’t close the laundry door then he’s head first into the dress up box to bring me something to put on him.

So buckle up, fellow pawrents, because we’re about to embark on a journey of winterising your pup the fun and stress-free way. Get ready for some adorable (and slightly silly) anecdotes, expert training tips, and a whole lot of tail wags.

Why Desensitising to Cold Weather Gear is a Must

Before we dive into the how-to’s, let’s talk about why getting your dog comfortable with winter attire is such an important task. After all, can’t you just wrestle them into a coat and call it a day? Well, yes – but trust me, your sanity (and your dog’s well-being) will thank you if you take the time to do it right.

For starters, forcing your dog into clothing they’re not comfortable with can be seriously stressful for them. Imagine how you’d feel if someone just plopped a giant, unfamiliar puffy jacket on you without any warning or positive association. You’d probably feel pretty anxious and want to get out of it as soon as possible, right?

Well, dogs are no different. Sudden, aversive experiences with winter gear can lead to all sorts of negative behaviours, from frantic scratching and wiggling to full-on panic. And that’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to keep your pup safe and warm in the great outdoors.

Beyond the behavioural drawbacks, there are also some serious health and safety concerns to consider. Dogs that are severely stressed or afraid of their winter wear are much more likely to injure themselves trying to escape it – think torn nails, scraped paws, or even a broken tooth from snapping at the offending garment. And let’s not forget the risk of them completely slipping out of a coat or booties and making a mad dash into the wild.

So while it might seem like an unnecessary extra step, taking the time to slowly introduce and desensitise your dog to their cold weather gear is absolutely crucial. Not only will it save your sanity in the long run, but it will also keep your pooch happy, healthy, and ready to embrace all the joys of winter.

Getting Started: The Importance of Positive Associations

Okay, now that we’ve established why desensitising is so important, let’s talk about how to actually do it. The key, my friends, is all about building positive associations – making your dog think “Ooh, jacket time? That means treats and playtime!” instead of “Oh no, the Abominable Snow Monster is back to torment me.”

And the best way to do that? Lots and lots of tasty, high-value rewards. We’re talking BBQ chicken, cheese cubes, or even a spoonful of peanut butter (just be sure it’s xylitol-free!). These irresistible rewards will be the backbone of your desensitization training.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But my dog is a total food hound, they’ll just gobble up the food and then try to rip the jacket off anyway!” And you know what? That’s a totally valid concern. That’s why we’re going to start SUPER slowly and work our way up.

First, let’s get your dog comfortable with just having the jacket or booties nearby. Set the item on the floor near your pup and immediately toss a treat their way. Repeat this a few times, gradually moving the item closer to your dog as they get more relaxed. The key is to never force interaction – let them approach it at their own pace and always, always follow it up with a tasty reward. For those of you whom have trained with me before this is the same as shaping the Boundary or shaping a harness.

Once your dog is happily nosing around and sniffing the gear, it’s time to up the ante a bit. Try draping the jacket over your arm or holding a bootie in your hand, again rewarding your pup each time they investigate. Slowly work your way up to gently touching the item to their body, always making sure to keep those yummy treats coming and the interaction positive.

The next step is to actually start putting the gear on, but here’s the catch – we’re going to take it slowwwwww. Maybe just slide one leg into a bootie, immediately followed by a jackpot of treats. Or drape the jacket over their shoulders for a second before whisking it back off. The key is to never leave the item on long enough for your dog to get stressed or try to escape.

And remember, every dog is different. Some pups might breeze through this process in a matter of days, while others might need weeks or even months to fully warm up to their winter wardrobe. The most important thing is to go at your dog’s pace and keep the training sessions short, fun and filled with lots of praise and tasty rewards.

Winterising Workarounds: Adapting to Your Dog’s Needs

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “This all sounds great, but what if my dog is just…well, a little bit meh about wearing gear?” Fear not because I’ve got some handy winterising workarounds up my sleeve.

For starters, if your pup is truly dead set against wearing a traditional jacket or booties, consider getting creative with alternative options. There are all sorts of fun and functional winter accessories out there.

One of my personal favourite alternatives? The humble daggy doggy jumper. Now, I know what you’re picturing – a cheesy, oversized knit monstrosity that your pup will hate with every fibre of their being. But hear me out – there are actually some really stylish, well-fitting jumper options out there that dogs can get pretty jazzed about.

The key is to find a jumper that’s made of a stretchy, comfortable material (think polar fleece, wool or moisture-wicking synthetic blends) and has a simple, streamlined design. Avoid anything too bulky or restrictive, and make sure to measure your pup carefully to get the perfect fit.

And just like with the jackets and booties, you’ll want to go through the same slow desensitisation process. Start by having it in their space, then draping the jumper over your arm, then your dog, rewarding them for calm, curious sniffs. Gradually work up to partially putting it on, then fully dressing them in the cozy getup while snackies rain from the sky.

Of course, if your dog is still giving you the cold shoulder (pun intended) when it comes to any and all winter gear, don’t push it. If they find it aversive then leave it. It’s not worth destroying your relationship over. If they get cold then you can snuggle. If they get wet on a walk then you can dry them off when you get home. Our climate in Australia means that winter gear isn’t always necessary. Usually their own furry coats are enough to keep them warm depending on their age and health.

The key is to listen to your pup, pay attention to their body language, and be willing to experiment until you find the perfect solution, even if it’s not wearing anything but their fur. And remember – no matter what route you go, always keep those positive associations flowing strong. After all, the goal is to make your dog see any cold weather gear as a fun, rewarding experience, not a torturous exercise in canine couture.

And let’s not forget about all the fun indoor activities you can enjoy together as well. Curl up on the couch for a Stan binge (haha – see what I did there), complete with a shared plush dog bed and a steaming mug of hot chocolate (for you, not your pup!). Or set up an indoor obstacle course, complete with tunnels, jumps, and other winterised agility equipment. The options are endless.

The key is to keep that positive reinforcement training going strong, no matter where your wintertime antics take you. Whenever your dog willingly puts on their gear or engages in a fun cold-weather activity, shower them with verbal praise, pats, and of course, those ever-important high-value rewards.

So, what are you waiting for? Break out the coats, booties, and maybe even a funny jumper or two, and let the cold-weather adventures begin! Your dog may thank you.

Game On!

Let’s Play!


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