Hi friends! We thought we'd share a few little insider tips with you that we've discovered over the years, particularly in relation to walking your dog in the depths of Winter. Brrr!
Though we're in the middle of a beautifully sunny weekend, any true-blue Melbournian knows that "weather forecasts" are to be taken with a grain of salt and that "four seasons in one day" is quite the reality in our very liveable (but very indecisive) city.
As you're aware, we're out walking dogs year-round, so we've picked up a few handy hints around surviving cold, wet, and/or windy conditions. Save yourself the hard work and check out our hot tips below. You can thank us later!
1. INVEST IN DECENT FOOTWEAR
If there's one major item you should invest in for Winter, it's a pair of decent waterproof shoes or boots. You might spend a little bit to start with, but getting the right pair of footwear will save you the awful smell and discomfort of wet socks and feet every time you venture outside.
For the first few years we churned through clunky gumboots and fancy goretex trail shoes (various brands; ~$150/pair) that would each only last about half a season before springing a leak. After a while we decided to bite the bullet and purchase proper hiking boots (on sale; ~$350/pair), which although heavier to wear, have been brilliant. After much trial and error, our absolute favourite brand (in both shoes and boots) is Zamberlan, which we sourced from Mountain Designs.
2. KEEP YOUR DOGGY TOWELS FRESH
We find dogs to muddy puddles like moths to a flame-- sometimes there is just no keeping them apart! Dog towels are a must have item in Winter, and fortunately they are quite easy to come by. We like to support Op Shops where possible, but where these aren't available we've relied on donations and Kmart. Here's the real gem though: when it comes to washing your towels, try soaking them in some hot water and laundry disinfectant (like this one) before sticking them in the machine. We find this is a foolproof way to get rid of nasty smells and stains, without contaminating the washer and other laundry.
3. PROTECTING THE CAR
Before we upgraded to vans, we transported our dogs in SUV's with a fitted cargo barrier between the rear seats and boot space (which created a divider). This meant that some dogs needed to be harnessed into the back seat, potentially bringing lots of mud and water into the car cabin. We tested a number of back seat protectors and found the best by far to be the Kurgo Wander Hammock. Whilst it isn't cheap, it is super durable where other brands would just rip and fall apart. We took it a step further and laid clean towels between the car seat and the hammock to soak up any excess mess (however, we always found the towels were dry upon inspection). For dogs in the rear cargo area, we laid a cut-to size rubber boot mat on the floor which was exceptionally good at protecting the interior.
4. STAYING SAFE
Your dog's wellbeing should be paramount at all times, but as wild weather correlates strongly with lost dogs, Winter is a particularly important time to revisit your safety measures. In a previous post we addressed your dog's identification, and in this one we'd like to tackle visibility. Melbourne Winter sees some especially dark mornings and afternoons, so why not prepare yourself with some extra equipment in case visibility becomes an issue? Both Rogz and EzyDog manufacture small light pendants which can be affixed to your dog's collar and switched on during dim conditions; but for serious illumination, a headtorch such as this one can slip over your dog's collar (or you can use it yourself). We have heard of some light-up collars online but haven't tested them, so if you have, drop us a line here. Remember, if you're in doubt about how your dog may react in adverse weather, it's better to be safe than sorry: stay on leash.
5. LAYER UP & LEARN TO LOVE IT
Ok, so you might not go frolicking through thunder and lightening... but a bit of rain never hurt anyone! Layering makes blustery weather conditions quite tolerable. We are big fans of merino thermals, soft shell jackets and goretex rain jackets. For the bottom half, we love these waterproof overpants because they slip on/off super quickly. Other than that, it's all in the mind! Most dogs don't mind Winter; in fact, many truly love it! What better way to know you're alive than to be out feeling the wind and rain on your cheeks?!
There you have it, our best dog walking tips for surviving the Melbourne Winter! We hope to see you out there... but if you still can't stomach the cold, wind, and/or rain, relax... we'll walk your dog for you! You can enquire about our dog walking here.