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How to safely walk your dog during a polar vortex

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The first round of precipitation is set to begin overnight Sunday or early Monday morning with five cm of snow expected by the afternoon. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
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A fine snow covers a dog playing on the snow on December 30, 2011 in Oberhof, eastern Germany. ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images
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Dogs play in the snow on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on February 5, 2012. BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
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A Winnipeg dog club is proposing the installation of dog water fountains, washing stations, and Canada’s first ever dog splash pad. CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
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Environment Canada also recommends frequent breaks when shoveling snow to prevent injuries and strains. . FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
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A Winnipeg dog club is proposing the installation of dog water fountains, washing stations, and Canada’s first ever dog splash pad. RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
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Kilcona dog club is proposing the installation of dog water fountains, washing stations, and Canada’s first ever dog splash pad. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
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This walk may cause irritation on Fido's paws. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images
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Snow fall. Getty Images

In pictures: Dogs walking in the snow

MONTREAL – It’s a winter task that many pet owners come to dread: convincing reluctant dogs to leave a cozy home for a walk in the polar vortex.

With temperatures across Canada dropping below -20°C, it’s a dilemma that needs to be addressed.

Of course, there’s an app for that! WonderWoof helps pet owners stay connected to their dogs by tracking exercise, mapping favourite walking routes and keeping track of grooming, food and medical reminders.

But when we finally get off the couch and to the door, is it actually safe to head outside?

Joshua Taylor, a trainer and behaviourist at Canine Education in Montreal, shared some advice on how to care for our furry friends during subzero weather.

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Take a walk!
Walking the dog is not just good physical exercise, it’s also an exercise in bonding.

“I can guarantee that there is really one big thing your dog loves, and it’s to walk with you!”

While you could just put your dog outside in the yard for a quick play outside, Taylor is a strong advocate of getting out and about with your pet.

“The biggest positive to taking your dog outside for a walk is the energy being burned,” he said.

“A lack of exercise is one of the main factors to many behaviour issues that we deal with on a daily basis.”

What if it’s -40°C and you really can’t face the cold?

Taylor suggests a dog walker or an indoor workout.

“If you have a treadmill, it’s a great way to burn some energy.”

If you’re cold outside, so is your dog
Although it’s rare for animals get frostbite, it is possible.

“If you’re paying attention while outside with your furry friend, they will tend to let you know when they have had enough.”

Try to limit the amount of time outdoors during very cold temperatures and consider a doggie sweater or coat for warmth, especially for the sick and short haired, as well as young pups and older dogs.

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“Cold all depends on the size of the dog,” said Taylor.

“The smaller the dog, the shorter the time.”

Icy streets mean salty sidewalks
One of the most common cold-weather issues is irritated dog paw pads caused by the salt sprinkled on icy sidewalks.

“Avoiding salted streets is a big must,” said Taylor.

“I let the dogs walk on the side, where there is fresh or white snow.”

When back at home, take a minute to wipe off your dog’s paws with a clean, wet cloth.

“Buying little boots for your dogs is not such a bad idea,” Taylor said.

“Plus you will get a good laugh out of it when they go walking in them for the first time.”

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