Winter dog care tips from a world-class athlete

ORIJEN pet food has partnered with five times Olympic champion Dame Laura Kenny to offer tips and advice how to keep our four-legged friends in fantastic condition over the winter months.

As well as being one of the UK’s most accomplished athletes, Laura is also the owner of beloved pups, Sprolo (a nine-year-old cockapoo) and Pringle (an eight-year-old cockapoo) and has some great insight as to how she maintains their health as the days get shorter and colder.

We know winter is a harder time of year for both dogs and owners in terms of getting out and about, and the thought of warming comfort foods, extra treats, and being sofa-bound becomes more appealing, which is why ORIJEN has sought Laura’s advice for helping pets and owners thrive this season.

Tip 1: Research your dog’s winter warmers 

For the winter or rainy weather, take your dog’s fur type into account before looking into coats and clothing, as they all have different requirements – it’s not all about size! My dog Sprolo would literally go out in a hurricane or snowstorm and be happy as he has such thick, dense fur (and he needs shaving down in the summer), but Pringle is a little bit smaller, and with more wispy fur, so needs a little extra help keeping warm” 

Tip 2: Consider park alternatives 

“If poor weather conditions make the journey to parks difficult, consider setting up an agility course at the house or in the garden – you can set these up with hoops, sticks, and/or crates if a ready-made option and space isn’t always easily available! Also – don’t forget how effective simple games like fetch can be for quick bursts of speed for the dog, and if you’re careful with how and what you throw, this can be done at home. In the last six months and the last part of the Olympic cycle, Jason and I have had to rest as much as we can and couldn’t go on as long running/cycling/walking trips – so getting our dogs doing simple things in the garden and round the house, such as playing fetch or getting them on the agility course, ensured they were still getting enough exercise, even during our down time” 

Tip 3: Prep for yourself, not just the dog 

“Don’t forget to ensure that you as an owner are covered for tricky weather too – we made sure that for winter we are well equipped for taking the dogs out and about. Must-haves in terms of basic walking gear are warm/ extra pairs of trousers (we’ve picked up salopettes for some of our chillier adventures), but fluffy, warm socks, and a really good pair of gloves are essential, because there’s nothing worse than cold hands!” 

Tip 4: Make it a group effort 

“Buddying up can make such a difference to beat the winter blues – for you and your dog! Pringle, the younger of our two, is not a fan of the rain, and isn’t as readily built for the cold, so if he looks out and it’s raining, he looks at you like ‘do I have to?’ – which can be easy to cave in to! But, because Sprolo is boss, he will follow him – he literally does everything Sprolo does. So, if Sprolo shoots out, Pringle pops out too. Of course, not everyone has space for two dogs in the home, but partnering up with other dog owners in your area can really help with motivation, as not only are you making commitments with other people, your dogs are also likely to be far more excited to follow the pack with they see another dog venturing out too. Just like going to the gym with a friend, or committing to an exercise class, the prospect of company and someone to share the experience with can be equally motivating for your dog, so check on social media apps and do a little research to find local dog groups that may be a good fit” 

Tip 5: Keep an eye on winter diet 

“As always, nutrition is an important element to look at as seasons change. If your dog’s number or length of walks are being reduced due to adverse weather, it’s a good idea to monitor their food intake and ensure it’s in-line with their level of activity, and ensure that they are receiving nutrient-dense food, as opposed to extra holiday treats. It can be tempting, particularly as the Christmas season is coming, to give extra scraps, leftovers etc., to your dog, but make sure anything you give them is suitable, and check in other family members aren’t all doing the same thing! I feed Sprolo and Pringle ORIJEN – which matches a whole prey diet based on what’s biologically-appropriate for them, without added bulk or additives. This means their core diet isn’t bloated already, and that way, I know the odd festive winter treat isn’t too harmful!