DEAR OLD TRAINER: We are going to Tahoe for Christmas. My dog is Mitzi and is short. I can’t remember what kind she is, but she is short. I am afraid Mitzi will sink in the snow and I can’t find her. My dad said to ask you if Mitzi will be OK. I don’t want to go if Mitzi will sink. I am 10 and might not be able to find her.
DEAR COURTNEY: That’s an excellent question. Mitzi is a lucky dog to have you taking care of her. You don’t have to worry. The snow gets pretty deep on top of the mountain, but down at the lake level where people stay, there won’t be much.
Tahoe gets the kind of snow that firms up after a day or two and Mitzi doesn’t weigh enough to sink. Plus, she has you to watch over her. Dogs love to play in the snow as much as kids do, so take Mitzi out and have a good time with her.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: I don’t know what breeds my dogs Gunnar and Dix are, but I think they have a lot of German shepherd. They grow thick hair in the winter and prefer to stay outside at night. I got them each a big dog house, but they always want to sleep together in one of the houses. They must be crowded, but that’s what they want. Is that OK?
Deena, Colorado Springs
DEAR DEENA: It’s always OK when dogs obey impulses ingrained in their DNA. Puppies are born knowing they stay warm if they sleep with the other puppies in the litter. In the wild, a pack of wolves sleeps together to keep warm and because they enjoy being close to the ones they love.
Gunnar and Dix are not wolves, but are descended from wolves and it comforts them to be together in the cold night.
Put a foot of straw down in both houses and let them choose the one they want.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: We have two big mixed breeds – part Belgian, the vet said – we have had since they were puppies. We lived in Texas at the time, but moved to Taos when we retired. The dogs love the snow and insist on being outside most of the time. I have a question about nutrition. Do I need to feed them more during cold weather? How do you adjust feeding to reflect the seasons?
Sula, Taos, N.M.
DEAR SULA: Take extra care in the winter. Dogs spending time in the cold need more calories to regulate their body temperature, but not enough to give them a layer of fat. Check their ribs every few days. You want to be able to feel the ribs but not see them. Cut back if they start to gain weight.
Check their coats and skin weekly. The thick undercoat dogs grow in winter may cause dry skin and the coat itself may lose its luster. If that happens, add a tablespoon of olive oil or sunflower oil to their food each day.
Water is as important in the winter as the summer, so make sure their dishes are not frozen and they have access to water at all times.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.