Winter can be tough on all of us, and that includes your dog. Cold weather, snow, ice, dry air in the house, shivering wind chills when you take your dog for a walk – all of these wintry elements can leave your dog’s coat in desperate need of care. You might be left wondering what happened to the fluffy pup or sleek canine you were petting last summer.

Here are some grooming tips to help your dog survive the winter and keep his good looks.

Groom your dog regularly. Dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis in the winter. This is especially true when they are shedding old coat and growing new hair. Brushing your dog often will also stimulate the skin which spreads the natural skin oil over your dog’s body. These natural oils are good for the skin and they help condition the coat. Remember to clean your dog’s ears regularly and brush his teeth, too. When grooming your dog you should use your hands to feel all over his body. This will help you find any lumps or bumps when they are small so a vet can take care of them before they become serious.

Keep your dog’s coat clean
. Many people think that it’s not necessary for a dog to get a bath in the winter but it’s important to keep your dog’s coat bathed and clean. It’s easier to brush and groom a clean coat. A clean coat won’t smell bad. And keeping the coat bathed and clean will also cut down on the amount of hair that is shed in your home. When you bathe your dog, remember to towel dry or blow dry your dog so that he is completely dry after the bath to avoid skin irritations and hot spots.

Use the right conditioners. A good conditioner can be very important for your dog in the winter. For example, if your dog spends a lot of time playing in the snow, use a silicone based spray-in conditioner to repel snow from the coat. If your dog’s coat is dry and straw-like, trim the ends and use a good conditioning shampoo for his coat type.

Take care of your dog’s paws and nails
. Long hair around the paw pads will accumulate ice and snow when your dog is outside so keep this hair trimmed short. Check your dog’s paws for snow and ice when he comes inside the house. If he does have ice between his toes, you can remove the ice comfortably by placing his paws in warm water. Be sure to check your dog’s ear tips and pads for frostbite, too, especially if he spends a long time outside in low temps. Make sure you keep his nails trimmed regularly, too. If your dog’s paws or nose becomes chapped, you can soothe them with some lanolin. Avoid letting your dog walk on salted or chemical-treated sidewalks, if possible. You can also invest in some dog booties to protect your dog’s paws.

Dry your dog when he’s been outside.
If your dog has been outside playing in the snow, be sure to towel him off until he’s dry when he comes inside. Or use the blow dryer to dry him and warm him up.

Beware of sunburn! Yes, dogs do become sunburned, even in winter. Dogs with white coats, especially short, thin coats, are especially prone to sunburn, or winter burn. You can apply sunscreen to your dog to help prevent this burn. Hairless dogs will also need sunscreen to protect them from burning.

Put a coat or sweater on your dog if he needs one. Lots of people are uncertain whether their dog needs a coat or sweater. While dogs can usually tolerate normal winter temperatures, it’s important to remember that many breeds are now living in places where they didn’t develop. Chihuahuas, from a warm area in Mexico, get cold in northern cities. The same is true of many other small breeds who were bred to live in the home and be companions. A large Newfoundland who can jump into icy waters probably won’t ever need a coat; nor will a Siberian Husky; but there are many breeds who can use some extra warmth on a cold day. If you have a breed with a thin coat such as an Italian Greyhound, for example, and your dog shivers when he’s outside in the cold, go ahead and get him a coat or sweater.

Finally, keep your dog well-hydrated in winter and provide extra calories if necessary. Cold weather usually causes dogs to use extra energy just to stay warm so they often need some extra calories, especially if they spend much time outside. Feeding a nutritious dog food is one of the best ways to help your dog have a healthy skin and coat. Remember that snow and ice are not adequate sources of water for your dog. Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water for your dog in the winter. Clean water to drink will help your do maintain healthy skin and coat, too.

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