Winters are quite hard on rescue, not only do you have to deal with all the shoveling, keeping paths cleared for walking, no salting in dog areas, ice, and high heating bills. “Newcomers” need to learn the dog door quicker than in the summer; can’t have that plastic flap open for too long with arctic temperatures outside!! The thing we worry about most is keeping the dogs entertained; busy and still physically active. It takes a toll on their paws, their diet and their sanity; much like humans, they too can get depressed, bored and oh so very chunky. When they have to share a bedroom with another jack intros are tougher in a snowy and cold field, where there is not as much incentive to play or be social, and the days are much shorter not allowing for much time to get it all done if arrival of a newcomer is late in the day.
But like any dog owner, we do our best to keep the Jacks Galore (JG) jacks happy, and in addition to the usual loving we spend more time in the kennels with them, training with mind games, learning their sits and downs, eating gently from a hand, playing nicely with a tug toy and sharing with their roommate. There are high value items that keep them busy and can spend the time gnawing like frozen marrow bones, Kongs filled with peanut butter, bully sticks or a toy they can tear to shreds. Of course the latter does not take up much of their time with some of the jacks but it entertains for a while at least.
Every day we try to get all the dogs out (only four days so far this year that would not allow us to venture forth because of temps that were too cold and snowing so hard we had to shovel all day!!!). Some of the jacks have no issues with the cold on their feet and everyone is bundled up in a foggy mountain dog coat, and the pace is kept brisk. The walks are shorter depending on the temperatures but for those that keep a good happy stride we indulge them with their 3 or 5 mile walk if that is their preference.
It is not unknown for us to carry a dog part of the way back if we have gone a step too far, but that’s why jacks are so perfect, portable when needed. We have tried booties, many JG adopters have said they work, but we have not had much luck with them yet. So for those dogs who can’t take the cold or ice (we wash all paws upon return), we venture up to the cleared agility field and play ball, tug of war or let them tussle with their roommates. If the sun it out they relish the fact that it might be cold but the rays warm their bodies and they welcome the freedom of play, and sometimes the zoomies just take hold and you can SEE the frustration of the winter dissolve.
There are many good articles in several journals about winter activity two of our favorites are The Whole Dog Journal and The Bark, both rescue oriented. Both are smartly written, filled knowledge and good tips we can use when we want to learn something new about our dog or read up on something we never thought about doing or using. But lest we forget if it is too cold there are plenty of things to do INSIDE too. Winter is a perfect time to train your dog; tricks are fun, there are basic games we can play, and who does not have a dent in the wall from throwing the tennis ball in the house during the real frigid days that even your jack wants nothing of the cold. Also a picture window with a seat to watch the bird feeders and of course the squirrels at the suet tray, all offer winter entrainment for those housebound hunters.
So get out there in the cold, bundle yourself and the pooch up, remember to keep your ears and hands warm and make sure you and your dog enjoy this time of year. If you happen to live in a warmer state than those of us in the winter climes, enjoy the outdoors and send warm weather our way. Happy outings.