Winter and all content
Shooting Times & Country|December 23, 2020
Most of our canine companions love snow but freezing conditions can pose a challenge for gundogs in the field, says David Tomlinson
David Tomlinson

DREAMING OF A white Christmas? I doubt it will happen, as snow is increasingly rare in the southern half of the British Isles. In England, there’s rather more chance of snow at Easter than Christmas, though the difference is that if it does snow at Christmas, it stays around a lot longer than it does at Easter.

I have always liked snow and still marvel at the magical way it changes a landscape. Shooting after a fresh fall of snow was always a special pleasure, as a snow-covered landscape tells you so much about the local wildlife. You can see where a fox has stalked a rabbit, follow the tracks of deer or note how many pheasants are coming to your feeders. Tracks in the snow reveal so much that normally passes unnoticed.

At the risk of sounding anthropomorphic, I would suggest that most dogs love the stuff, too. Young dogs that haven’t encountered snow before are usually fascinated, cavorting and galloping with abandon, while even older dogs will allow themselves a luxurious roll.

The downside of snow is that it will ball and freeze in a dog’s feet or the feathers of a spaniel. This can drive a dog to distraction, forcing it to make frequent stops in a generally unsuccessful attempt to gnaw off the offending ice.

From what I recall — and it’s a long time since I last worked my dogs in snow — it’s wet snow that creates these problems, not the dry, powdery stuff. One way of preventing snow balling is to fit your dog with snow boots, of which there’s a surprising variety available, as an internet check will reveal. A good snow boot should fit comfortably and securely, and give warmth, protection and added traction. Some dogs will wear them happily, but I’ve met others that refuse to have anything on their feet.

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