JOPLIN, Mo. —
I am not a fan of snow, ice and all of the miserable weather that occurs between November and February in this state. After moving to this side of Missouri, I thought I might avoid the brutal winters of the north.
No such luck.
My dog eclipses my dislike for this time of year tenfold, exacerbating my aversion to the cold.
My dog does not do well outdoors in the cold. And if it's wet outside, forget about it.
This means I will inevitably have something in my house that my dog will urinate on, including rugs or clothes she finds on the ground.
I like dog urine about as much as I like the snow, and because my apartment is tiny, the smell can't hide long.
I have found that this is actually a common occurrence, especially with smaller pets. Whereas their larger counterparts are built for this kind of weather, for my small dog, that's not the case.
I know that some of the tips I've found may seem like common sense to my seasoned readers, but I actually received email ahead of this week's bad weather forecast. I'd rather your pets be safe and warm than finding a hidden corner to leave you a smelly surprise.
First things first: I strongly encourage you to not use any kind of puppy pad or inside training tool. I'm not a fan of anything that puts the idea in a dog's head that it is all right to go to the bathroom inside.
Also, there is a good chance that your dog may not have good aim, and you will have to deal with spillage on your floors. That's a problem for a later column.
When it snows, get your shovel out and clear a path for your dog. Note the use of the word "shovel." That means no snow salt, chemical ice remover or anything else that could damage your skin or your pet's paws. Basically, if you wouldn't be happy having it on your hands, make sure your pet stays away from it, too. Eventually, exposure to these materials will cause cracking along animals' pads and nails.
Now that you have a path cleared, make sure that your dog has some kind of coat on. I'm not a fan of dressing up pets to make them more human-like, but when it comes down to usability, I support it.
In this case I support the idea greatly, because my dog will take her time using the bathroom and it can get cold out. Smaller dogs get cold easily, and it's not healthy to keep them outside for a long time.
After they have done their business and trotted back in, make sure that you have a towel handy to give them a quick wipe down. Many times they will track mud and gravel back in, so it's a good idea to save your furniture some wear by taking an extra minute or two to clean them up.
It is important to note that if you are letting your dog out on a deck or a patio, their urine tends to stand there longer and can attract neighborhood animals and even possibly stain an unfinished deck. Be sure to take your pets to the grass and show them the appropriate place to use the bathroom.
And just because it's winter doesn't mean you can leave your pet's mess outside. Keep it cleaned up, because it's never fun to realize what you have tracked in.
Finally, I advocate the use of healing balm on your pet's paws during the winter. Just like you they dry out this time of year, which can cause them pain.
This final tip is for both cats and dogs: Most pet stores carry a product named Musher's Secret. Use it to keep your pet's paws soft the rest of winter.
Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7363.