What can be better than slipping on your dog’s lead and enjoying a leisurely stroll in the warm, summer sunshine? Not much!

But when the winter rolls round and it’s cold and dark outside, taking your dog for a walk can be a whole lot less inviting!

However, we know you are not just a fair-weather pal to man’s best friend, so here’s some top tips on rising to the challenge of getting out and about in winter.

Dress for the weather

As well as wrapping up warm yourself, now might be the time to consider getting your dog kitted out for the cold.

Some breeds, such as labradors, German shepherds and huskies who have thick coats to protect them, are not bothered by the cold but some-haired breeds such as greyhounds, staffies and Dobermans, can struggle to keep warm.

If you own one of these, consider togging him up in a cosy doggy jumper or coat when they go outside to make the walk more comfortable.

You could also consider protecting his paws from the freezing ground with some winter boots. The added bonus being – no dirty paws traipsing mud into your home afterwards.

If boots are a fashion no-no for your dog, ensure their feet are wiped down after their walk to remove any harmful substances as salt and grit, for example, can get between their toes and be really irritating.

If your dog is a hairy monster, you should trim the hair around his feet to help prevent ice-balls, which can form between the footpads and toes and cause him a lot of pain.

Safety first

As well as staying warm, there can be more to think about in terms of safety when walking your dog in winter.

For example, now might not be the time to be venturing near any frozen lakes and definitely keep your dog on a lead if you do.

If they do run on to frozen water, do not be tempted to go after them. Most dogs are strong swimmers and are more likely to get themselves out of trouble than you are.

Wherever you choose to walk, try to stick to well-lit areas and if you are walking on a country road, walk against the traffic and keep your dog on your right (away from the road).

Always wear bright/reflective clothing yourself, so you can be seen by motorists, but you may also want to consider investing in reflective gear, such as a harness or collar, for your dog too. You can even get good quality flashing collar to make sure he is seen – not only by traffic but also by you if he’s off his lead in the dark.

Carry a torch for those darker areas, or wear a head lamp if you need to keep your hands free.

You could also organise to walk your pooch with a friend or group. This is a great way of motivating yourself to get off the couch and go for a walk, as well as giving you more peace of mind regarding personal safety – and means your dog has a friend to play with.

If you are heading to a park or open area, why not take along a light-up ball so your dog can enjoy a game of fetch in failing light.

Of course, sometimes the weather really is too bad to get out. You may want to consider staying home if it’s snowy or icy to avoid slips or fall.

Older dogs, particularly those with arthritis, may not like the cold, so it’s perfectly OK to stay home sometimes and dig out those toys for a bit of fun and games indoors.

If your dog is getting less exercise, consider what you are feeding him – you may need to cut back a bit to ensure he doesn’t pile on the pounds.

Whatever you do, enjoy the winter!