Barking Blondes: Snow can be the greatest fun or total nightmare for dogs

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

blondesblog 225x300 Barking Blondes: Snow can be the greatest fun or total nightmare for dogsSnow can be the greatest fun or a total nightmare for dogs, depending on the breed, like us their enthusiasm differs. Some rush out to leap like deer horizontally up and down in the stuff whilst others, including our own little darlings Molly and Matilda, recoil from it.

This week we had a bit of an embarrassing moment in the block where we live. We are fortunate that this is one of the few mansion blocks in central London that allows dogs. Realising how rare this is, all the owners and pooches in the block are on their best behaviour when in the hallways and on the stairs.

For the six years we have lived here all has run quite smoothly amongst the canine community, that was until yesterday. We awoke to the silence that can mean only one thing, it has snowed overnight and from the look of dread on dogs’ faces they knew it as well.

After struggling to get them both into waterproof dog coats we headed off for the morning constitutional, down the main stairs into the lobby.

We’d all but dragged their stubborn bull breed bodies towards the front door whereupon it opened to reveal what looked like Darth Vader. Dressed head to toe in polar expedition gear, complete with walking poles, hat and snow goggles is the bloke from number eight returning with his paper.

Matilda the bulldog stood stock still, the fur rising up on her back. Molly the bull terrier flattened her ears and bared her teeth (we are proud to say teeth of a two-year-old). We could read the signs. The bloke from number eight couldn’t. He loves our dogs. Unfortunately, as he leaned forward to pat them he forgot that they have never before seen him in this guise.

We will leave it for all you dog owners to imagine what happened next. Let’s just say it’s taken the delivery of two bottles of wine and an invitation to dinner to calm things down. Oh… and a couple of plasters.

Dogs are natural communicators. Their language is global – they ’speak’ through body language and read us humans in the same way. If we cover our bodies and eyes and scent, they are confused. So even though Molly and Matilda were familiar with our neighbour, he had in an attempt to keep warm, confused them. All communication signs had been hidden.

It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking Chinese or French the dog you’re communicating to will read your body posture, facial expression first and foremost. This coupled with a tone of voice, i.e. happy, cross or indifferent helps get the message across. Dogs understand commands which have been built on body/hand signals first.

Dogs obviously find it easier to read one another. They rely on small eye movements, head turns, tail carriage, body posture and ear movements to convey how they feel to other dogs. However, due to the exaggeration of features in breeds such as bulldogs the flat face means some dogs have trouble ‘getting’ a Bulldog’s meaning. This is exacerbated by Bulldog’s not having a tail, a great communicating tool. Tail docking has now been banned in the UK for six years.

Apart from having their own global language dogs are also born bi-lingual. After years of domestication they have learned to read our faces in the same way as humans. That is by looking at the right side of our faces. This is what we also do to each other, look to the right. Not the left.

So again, meeting a human with a covered face can be very confusing for a dog. For all you lucky people whose mutts love to frolick in the snow, this is just a word of warning. Rinse their feet when you return home. All this salt and grit is a godsend for us but is as strong as acid on the dogs feet. It will burn their pads so best to bathe it off.

Finally, this week’s pic is an example of what happens when your dog refuses to walk in the snow. Molly, as you can see, decided to climb a tree!

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  • hectorsmum

    No neither do I, my oldest lived to two months short of his fifteenth birthday, he had heart trouble which only came to the fore a couple of months before he died. We did not have another for four years but my Husband never got out of the habit of having to be home by four to take Henry out. I grew up with dogs, my parents had always had them, Mum came from a dog owning household and she introduced my Dad to them. I grew up with their first another Lab and we finally got together when I was toddling. We then had two German Shepherds and when the second one died we had none until I was in my teens and I too got one thrown from a car in the High Street in Portobello. She was supposed to be mine but she gravitated to my Mum. So until twenty years later I got the Pugs I was dog free, but in my heart I knew I would have another. Now I have the Fearless One, and I would not part with him.

  • Susan G.

    :0) Just between you and me- I’ve been having some second thoughts about independence for Scotland recently. Just not sure yet, to be honest!

  • hectorsmum

    How shall I put this, do not know which way you are going but nice little post in the Guardian from a Unionist who is now considering voting yes. He sees this as the only way to prosperity as do I. As I said to 49er yesterday we have little choice. People will have to consider whether they want to remain in the rUk and have all attendant possibilities of leaving the EU or being punished for the temerity for even considering rebellion. I know many people, specially those in the West have followed the line that we should be internationalist, nothing wrong with that but stop giving everything away first. Sorry, you can see it has always been a subject close to my heart. We alone should not be the only country denied our right to self determination, and certainly not by people (Scots) with vested interests,

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