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Yorkshire Terrier Winter Care

How to Winterize a Yorkie

For those of you who live in areas that experience four seasons, when you know that winter is on its way, you may wonder if there are things that you should do to winterize your Yorkshire Terrier.

Depending on where you and your Yorkie live, you may be preparing for cold temperatures, drier air, harsh winds and/or varying levels of snowfall.

Yorkies of all ages should be prepped for the wintertime. There are things that you can do to protect the coat, help the dog maintain good health, prevent winter related injury and harmful effects cold weather.

Let's discuss the things that you can do in advance of the season and also steps to take all throughout the wintertime to keep your Yorkshire Terrier happy, safe and healthy. We'll talk about coat, skin, cold protection, and more.

Check your Yorkie's sleeping area (if it is not your own bed!) and also the areas that the dog tends to rest throughout the day. In the winter, those spots that were cozy in the spring, summer and autumn may now be areas that are drafty. This can be particularly harmful for undersized Yorkies, young puppies and seniors; though dogs of all ages will benefit from being away from cold, chilly drafts. 

It's best to check for this on a cool, windy day. Stand in the spot with shoes and socks off and roll up your pants to your knees. This will make it easier for you to pick up on any cool or cold drafts that are down at the dog's level. 

If it is possible to seal up the draft, that is recommended (it will certainly help with heating costs as well). 
If you are unable to do so, it will be best to move the dog bed or encourage your Yorkie to rest/play in a warmer area. In most cases, as long as favorite toys and a favorite blanket are moved to a quiet area but also one where the dog can still 'see the action' and feel close to his humans, most dogs are tolerable to small changes such as this.
Yorkie 8 years old
Suzie Owners: Carrie McLelland and Kathy Collins
Protection From the Outside Cold

Let's look at the factors to consider when outside in the winter and how you can protect a Yorkie:

1) Temperature- Whenever the outside temperature is below 45 F (7 C), a Yorkie may have a hard time regulating body temperature. With toy breeds, there is a higher ration of body surface to body weight; this means that they will lose body heat much faster than bigger dogs.

When you bring your Yorkie outside, whether this is for bathroom needs or for a walk (more ahead on exercise and walks in the winter) you will want your Yorkie to feel just as comfortable as any other time of the year. 

Feeling cold can cause a dog to be resistant to going outside, it can cause the dog to shiver and depending on how long you stay out and how cold it is (you must factor in the wind chill as well), a Yorkshire Terrier can develop hypothermia. 

In addition, cold rains, sleet and wet snow will quickly be absorbed by the coat. Coats retain water; when combined with the cold, this can quickly lead to chills and increases the risk of hypothermia.
What to Do: Therefore, part of winterizing a Yorkie will be to choose functional clothing. Thick sweaters will cover the shoulders, back, flank and chest and do a good job holding in body heat. Coats and parkas are best for those who live in areas with below freezing temperatures and harsh winter winds.

Dogs lose a good portion of heat through their paws and ears. Therefore, a hat will protect the ears and boots will insulate the paws. 

2) Outside Surfaces- The 2 main factors to consider when taking your Yorkie outside will be the cold surface of the ground and ice melt. It is interesting to note that on clear weather nights in the winter, the cold airs sinks toward ground level. Temperature at the surface level that your Yorkie walks on can be much lower than the temperature on a few feet above where you are going to access how cold it is.

For this reason, it will be important to protect your Yorkie's paws from what might be extremely freezing ground surfaces. Remember that this is even more of a problem when there is no snow.

In addition, most of you are aware that ice melt chemicals are very dangerous to paws. They can cause chemical burns. While you can be careful regarding this around your own home, you have no control over what is spread on the roads. In addition, the tires of other cars will be depositing this all over roads, so even if your neighborhood does not have ice melt applied, other vehicles will be tracking it in.

 ** It should also be noted that the most dangerous time for paws to be exposed to this chemical in when snow banks are melting. High levels of ice melts will be in the piles that plows push to the sides of the streets. When that begins to melt, it will form puddles of highly toxic water. Not only is it harmful for a Yorkie to walk through it, lapping at the water can be toxic and cause poisoning.

What to Do: With all of this in mind, winterizing a Yorkie should involve snow shoes or boots to protect against both freezing surfaces and chemicals. Boots for Yorkies will also give a dog much better traction on slippery, icy areas. 

The best shoes and boots for a Yorkshire Terrier will fit on the paw without rotating. You will also want the boot to hug the ankle joint firmly, but without constricting blood flow. A rear Velcro strap will help with both of these elements. The shoes will need to be comfortable as well as sturdy so that the puppy or dog will have a much better tolerance for them.

It can help to have your dog practice wearing them inside the home a few times before heading outside. Be sure to act happy and give lots of praise as he walks around and becomes accustomed to them. Seeing you act excited and enthusiastic is often all a Yorkie needs to want to show off his foot protection.

If for some reason, you do not place booties on your dog when going outside in the winter, please wash off the paws as soon as you enter the house to remove any possible residue. Do keep in mind, rinsing the paws will do nothing to shield them from possible damage when outdoors.
If you are not happy with the boots that you currently have or if you are looking for the best, top rated boots for a Yorkie, you may wish to look to 'Clothing - Shoes' in the Yorkie Specially Shoppe.
3) Dry Air - The air is much drier in the winter; both inside and out. Outside, cooler air is not able to hold moisture like warm air can. Inside, cold air is warmed up by heating systems and the recycled warm air draws water from the skin of humans and pet alike.

Therefore, the arid air of winter can really do a number on the Yorkshire Terrier. It affects this dog in a couple of different ways. 

The Coat

The cold, dry environment of winter affect a Yorkie's coat due to static buildup. This can cause fly-aways and split ends. There is actually a term for this: Trichoptilosis, which means the longitudinal split of a hair. It begins when the protective cuticle is destroyed at the end of the hair. If it is not treated, it can travel upward, causing hair to break off. Without proper winterization, a Yorkie's coat can become quite damaged.
Yorkie dressed for winter
Tabitha, 2 years old
Photo courtesy of Tiffany and Ty Howard
The Fix

There are 2 mains things that you can do to winterize a Yorkie's coat.

1) Put Moisture in the Coat

Use a light, quality leave-in conditioner. This protects the hair strands from the damage of static and offers a protective coating from the awful effects of the cold air outside and the dry air both inside and out. Do be careful not to use too much; will some will rub off throughout the day from the Yorkie lying down, sitting on the sofa, etc., some will still remain on the coat. Spraying on too much in between baths will eventually cause there to be a buildup that creates an oily shine and not only will this weigh down the coat, it can prevent a healthy air flow to the skin.

It is recommended to lightly mist the coat, holding the bottle about 6 inches away, keeping your hand in motion as you go along. It will be mist, brush, mist in a light, airy fashion, never concentrating the spray in one particular spot. Using the proper pin brush, brush the coat from root to end in order to disperse the conditioner evenly over the coat.

Be sure to give your Yorkshire Terrier a good bath every 3 weeks. A thorough scrubbing down to the skin will cleanse away remnants of the leave-in product in order to start over again. Of course, never use shampoo alone, always finishing with a quality conditioner. Be sure to pat the coat, never rubbing, which can damage hairs. Take care to make sure a Yorkie is 100% completely dry before going outside in the winter. If there is a time rush, you may blow dry the coat (warm setting, not hot); however it is best to not make a habit out of blow-drying as this can cause heat damage.

2) Put Moisture in the Air

Another way to protect the coat (and the skin - more ahead on skin) is to use humidifier in the house. A good humidifier is an important step in wintering a Yorkie because it does many things at the same time: It will help keep the coat healthy, aid in keeping skin from drying out (which can lead to hair thinning, cracking, etc.) and also protect the nose and lips from drying out which can be a major problem in the winter. 

For dogs that experience drying in the nasal cavities in the winter, putting moisture into the air will help with this as well.
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Dry Skin Problems in the Winter

When owners ask for tips in winterizing a Yorkie, this is often due from past history of skin problems that develop during a cold season. Dry skin, if left untreated, can spiral into a major problem.

It is a combination of the cold and the dry winter air that we spoke about above, that can lead to a drying and for some, a cracking of the skin. 

Dry skin can appear on the paws, the nose and the lips - this will often turn into cracked skin if not treated. There can also be a full body drying that will directly affect the coat; in some cases there will be a full body thinning.

To protect the paws, certainly use boots or shoes when outside… and again, not just when it snows, but to shield the paws from the freezing temperature s at ground level.

Aside from that, a good quality balm will do wonders for protecting the paws and the nose. There are 3 different types of products:

1- Protection - You'll want a good balm to protect and winterize the paws and nose before any problems arise

2- Treatment - If an issue has developed, you will want a quality product to treat it. This is important, since cracked skin is vulnerable to infection and of course, because it is painful for the puppy or dog.

3- Paws and nose- The best balms for Yorkies will shield both paws and nose leather. However, you may also want a nose balm that you can easily carry with you, to keep applying to your dog's nose, since many Yorkies tend to lick it off. 

If you would like to see our personal recommendation for top products, see 'Grooming' in the Yorkie Specialty Shoppe.
Yorkie under warm blanket
Sadie Mae, 1 year, 2 months old
Photo courtesy of Michaela Smith
Shorter Days

1) Food and Activity Effect

When days are shorter - in some areas there are up to 6 less hours of sunlight per day - this has two effects on a dog:

1- Generally, he will tend to eat more. Canines can eat up to 20% less food in the summer. During the winter season (just like humans!) a dog may eat more than usual.

2- He may exercise less. This can be due to harsh weather conditions that rule out a full daily walk, if an owner has not been able to winterize their Yorkie, or due to less time of daylight hours to go outside.

What this means: When you take the combination of increased calories and less activity, this can mean weight gain and also a general feeling of lethargy. A Yorkie may seem a bit depressed and less willing to play.

In addition, when a dog that usually goes for walks once or twice a day is housebound for some days, this can cause a dog to have a buildup of excess energy with no healthy venue to release it. Dogs may become restless - a Yorkie may bark more or seem agitated - and for some (especially puppies) there may be destructive behavior such as chewing.
What to Do: There is no reason to try and restrict food if a Yorkshire Terrier's appetite has increased slightly, though do try and offer healthy snacks such as apple slices (very safe if the core if not touched), blueberries mixed into whole, white yogurt and baby carrots.

Try your best to keep exercise and daily walks the same as when the weather was warmer. Sometimes, an owner will properly dress up their dog with a coat, hat and boots but will fail to do this for themselves. This can a cause a situation where the dog is very willing to be active, but an owner will not want to remain outside. So, go ahead and put on that super warm hat, ear muffs, scarf, gloves, coat, and boots. When both you and your Yorkie are dressed properly, you can both enjoy being outside without feeling cold and this can make for some very enjoyable daily walks.
2) Night Time Dangers

A top leading cause of death for toy dogs is trauma. This includes falling from heights, being accidently stepped on and being hit by a car. When days are shorter, this usually means that evening walks will be done at dusk or even in the dark. Do not let that stop you from brining your Yorkie out in the winter, however another element to keep in mind is the safely of both of you.  

What to Do: Placing reflective strips on both your dog's clothing and yours will help to make both of you visible to passing cars. This is especially important in areas in which the streets become more narrow as snow is piled up to the sides of the roads. 
Housebreaking and Bathroom Needs

Hopefully, when a designated area was chosen in the spring or summer, consideration was put into how that area would work once there was snow on the ground. However, at any rate, bringing a puppy or dog outside for bathroom needs will be much easier if you:

1) Keep a path shoveled so that access is easy

2) Keep both your winter clothing accessories and your Yorkie's near the exit door. When a dog needs to pee or poo, you don't want to be searching for boots and coats. If a puppy or dog has to go out without them and finds the snow or cold to be troubling, this can set up a foundation of intolerance to head outside.

A Couple of More Winterizing Tips
Cars - Everyone is warned about the dangers of leaving a pet inside a hot car in the summer; however it is just as risky to leave a dog alone in the car in the wintertime. Automobiles cool off rapidly as soon as they are turned off; please keep your Yorkie with you and never leave him behind even if you think it will be for a few minutes. With the great slings and totes that are available, it is very easy to bring our little dogs with us into all types of stores (even those that have a no dog policy will often overlook pets that are safe in slings or tote bags.

Seniors - If a senior dog has arthritis, the cold winter weather can make the condition worse. You may find that an older Yorkie may have trouble rising up from a lying position or walking up steps. The body may feel stiff and achy. Here are a few tips:

1) Position yourself below your Yorkie when he is walking up a flight of steps

2) Aide him in getting on and off furniture (bed, sofa, etc.); many seniors do great with canine steps or ramps.

3) If he does not already have a quality orthopedic bed, now is the time to strongly consider obtaining one. Current beds should be evaluated to see if they need to be replaced. 
Yorkie in the snow
Wolfgang Amadeus Duffner, 6 years old
Photo courtesy of Sarah Duffner

Winter can be a wonderful time of the year, but we must be very aware of the changes that we need to make and steps we must take to properly winterize a Yorkshire Terrier. When we keep our puppies and dogs safe, happy and healthy, we can enjoy the season and all of the wonderful elements that come along with it. Most of the things that you will need such as clothing, booties, paw and nose balm and leave-in conditioner spray are relatively inexpensive and will last for the entire season (clothing will last many sessions if the products are high quality).
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