Not every pug is a winter dog. Yes, with a thick double coat and plenty of wrinkles (and extra “padding”), some pugs resemble baby seals. They appear to be ready to play in the Arctic snow.
It’s true too, most pugs aren’t fans of hot weather. They’re not “hot dogs.” If you’ve ever seen a pug panting in 80 degree weather, you know--their little bodies just aren’t made for the heat. You’d think winter-weather would be their ideal situation.
Still, when winter weather rolls around many pugs would rather stay bundled on the coach than making snow angels and building snow-pugs. One of the many charms of pugs is that they’re what we like to call “indoorsy.”
Nevertheless, when nature calls, like any dog, pugs need to venture outdoors. Plus, the need to burn off energy and exercise is important, especially for pugs who can struggle with their weight. Some pugs enjoy going out in the winter and others don’t, but it’s a reality many of us have to face. So here’s how to keep your pug dog happy, fit and healthy in winter weather.
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Winter Dog Tips: How to Keep Your Pug Healthy in the Winter
1. Protect Their Paws
Salt, ice and cold water can irritate dog paws. Pugs are no exception to this phenomenon. If you use ice-melt, choose a non-toxic, animal-friendly formula. When you walk your pug, you may want to carry a paper towel or soft cloth with you, to occasionally brush off their paws, especially if they’re limping. You can also try dog booties--which some pugs tolerate and others refuse. It’s best to try them for short periods and gradually build up. While dog’s feet are tough, prolonged exposure to icy temperatures can cause damage, so keep walks short and sweet and protect their feet.
When you come in from a walk, wipe off your pug’s paws with a soft baby wipe or damp towel. Inspect their paws for any cuts or damage, particularly if you notice they’re biting at their frito-feet or limping. While it’s tempting to put some lotion on their calloused little paws, this can soften them too much and make them more vulnerable to damage. Instead, simply keep them clean.
2. Bundle Up
Dogs have built-in coats, it’s true. Their coats, particularly the double-coat of some fawn pugs can be extra warm. Still, when temperatures drop, your pug will be grateful for the extra warmth. It may even make them more excited about venturing outdoors if he has a coat, jacket and sweater. Don’t hesitate to put a coat on your dog.
Because pugs fall into the group of toy breeds, their small bodies are generally not suited for extreme temperatures. They were, after all, bred to keep humans warm (to fit inside the sleeves of emperors). If your pug has a thinner coat it’s especially important they have extra warmth. Most most black, white and brindle pugs, as well as some fawns have thin or “single” coats. There are tons of great coats and jackets out there, from the ultra-warm, to a light shirt.
3. Find Play Opportunities
A tired pug is a well-behaved pug. If your pug is bored, they may get naughty and crabby. Dog parks, especially in the winter are often filled with big dogs, however. Look for Pug Meetups, small dog play groups and opportunities through your local Humane Society.
Doggie daycare facilities can be a great chance to get out some winter energy. Some facilities and indoor gyms only require your dog visit once a week or less, making them a more affordable option than regular doggie day care. Taking your pug to enjoy social time early in the week can keep your pug tired and happy throughout the rest of the week until the weekend.
4. Prevent Nose Funk
Nose-funk is another winter-hazard common to pugs. Brachycephalic dog breeds such as pugs have a tendency to collect “gunk” in their folds near their nose. Combine this gunk with constant licking as pugs are wont to do, and you end up with a very crusty nose situation.
Keep pugs folds clean daily, by washing them with a soft cloth or unscented baby wipe (we like Boogie wipes) and drying thoroughly with gauze or tissue. Use petroleum jelly, Bag Balm, plain Chapstick or vitamin E oil on your pug’s nose, especially if it gets crusty. Never pick at the crust or you can cause injury and infection.
5. Walk During the Warmest Part of the Day
Take your longest walk when the sunshine is out. Preferably walk between noon and four, if that’s the warmest part of the day. Whenever the weather gets sunny take advantage by getting your dog outside for some fresh air.
To maximize walks during sunny days, you may want to enlist the help of a dog walker. Again, this will tire your pug out and allow them to get some extra exercise. Yes, $20-40 per week may seem like a tall order, but if it staves off health issues and vet bills later on, it’s well worth the investment.
6. Play Indoor Learning Games
Pugs are a very smart dog breed. This is why they were used in circuses and as show dogs. While they aren’t the most athletic dogs, there are still plenty of pugs who perform in agility groups and many who are certified therapy dogs. Pugs are good learners!
Pugs are also very food motivated. So, teaching your pug tricks is a great way to keep him mentally stimulated and busy when the weather’s cold. Start with basic tricks like shake or high-five and work up from there. It may help to explore clicker training and positive behavior techniques. When your pug is learning something interesting, they often respond with better, more focused attitudes. You may be amazed at how serious your little dog becomes when it’s time to “work.”
7. Work for Food
Speaking of work, because pugs are so food motivated, they tend to overeat. The best way to combat this is to help them “work” for their food. This might mean using a slow or puzzle feeder. This also may mean cutting their regular meals down to make up for treat supplements.
Weight management is one of the biggest challenges for pug owners. As cute as your little round buddy is, extra weight can cause a myriad of health issues from breathing problems to snoring to heart and joint issues. Keeping your pug fit and trim will ensure a healthier, happier life for your pug (even though it’s tough to resist those big eyes begging for food).
8.Focus on Healthy Snackies
Swap out your regular snackies for healthier options, to keep your pug trim in the winter months. Never feed your pug table scraps--the fat, sodium and other ingredients in people food may be bad for your pug. Instead, offer your pug healthy treats such as small, dehydrated meat.
Other options for pugs are veggies! Pugs love small pieces of carrots, peas, green beans and spoons of pumpkin. These high-fiber goodies can even help with anal gland issues and cut back on constipation and straining.
9. Brush & Groom Frequently
Keep your pug clean and well-groomed in the winter. Dirt, salt and other grime can cover their short little bodies as they walk so close to the ground. Regular brushing and baths every few weeks will combat these issues and prevent skin irritation.
When you groom your pug, check their ears for any redness or irritation. Do a thorough rubdown in the tub, looking for any body changes, lumps, bumps or issues you should be aware of. Keep nails ground (if your pug will tolerate this) and teeth brushed. Regular bathing and grooming helps keep your pug clean and smelling as fresh as spring (even if spring’s a long way away).
10. Short, Frequent Walks May Help Poop Strike
One common issue in the winter is “poop strike” or even “pee strike.” Some pugs just refuse to do their business outside when the weather’s bad. Pee pads are an option, but some dogs experience house training regression if the option is available.
First, be sure you’re pug is drinking and eating plenty. Dehydration can exacerbate constipation and in the winter months, your pug may not feel like drinking as much. Adding water to their food may be an option or invest in a water fountain. Pugs are prone to urinary issues, so hydration is important! Secondly, take frequent, short walks. If your pug’s not interested in potty-time, come back inside and play for a while. Sometimes a little running around is all it takes to get things moving.
Winter months are tough on everyone, pugs included. Keep your dog happy and healthy during the winter with these tips. Spring will be coming before you know it!