Sloughi World - ein Magazin von Freunden des Sloughi für Freunde des Sloughi.Logo: Sloughi World - ein Magazin von Freunden des Sloughi für Freunde des Sloughi.




text: Roxanne Meyer, photos: Eva K. Wiik and Renata Goel

The Sloughi, being a sighthound of the desert and semi-desert environments of North-Western Africa, may not seem to be very well suited to a life close to the Arctic Circle. However, this hasn't stopped our breed from spreading into places such as Scandinavia. But how does a desert hound adapt to freezing temperatures?

As strange as it may sound, Sloughis get along very well indeed in Scandinavia, despite long winters and rainy springs and autumns. I myself share my life with three Sloughis; Azaar, Bahij and Djilál, in the Norwegian village of Nannestad, not far from Oslo. Those of you who remember the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway, may recall that it took place in Hamar and Lillehammer. Well, Nannestad is situated between Oslo and Hamar, and several of the skiing athletes of the '94 Olympic Games live here. This region is known for its snow and cold, even when it's raining in Oslo, which is just 65 kilometers south of here. It's a perfect place for professional cross country skiers to live and train.

Clearly, it doesn't sound like a suitable place for Sloughis. And yet, my three boys love it here.
In my experience, rain and wind is tougher on Sloughis than freezing temperatures and snow. Frozen snow is dry, and the Sloughi's capability of generating heat will usually keep it warm as long as it is in motion, and as long as its skin is dry. Wind is a bigger threat than the temperature in itself, and my boys may need to wear their coats at -5 if it's windy, even though they play happily in the snow, without coats, at -10 degrees Centigrades when there's no wind.

What you need to keep in mind is the Sloughi's extremities: its paws and its ears, and - of course - its genitals. The Sloughi's earlobes are very thin, and the tips of the ears will easily get frostbitten in cold temperatures. If exposed to too cold temperatures, the tips of the earlobes will literally freeze and the tissue will die, leaving the tip of the lobe feeling dry and cracked. Using conditioners and creams won't help, as they're moist and will become just as cold as the air temperature. Keeping the ears dry is vital, and lotions that have water in them are a complete no-no. It's better, then, to use pure fat on the earlobes. Or you can dress your Sloughi in a warm and snug "snood"; a sort of cross between ad hood and a neck scarf. I have never been able to talk my boys into wearing a snood, but you can see a picture of a whippet with a snood and a coat here:


The paws, too, need looking after when the temperature goes below freezing, and also if the roads and pavements are treated with salt. The skin of the pads will get dry and crack if you don't keep a close eye on your Sloughi's feet, and this hurts! Again, using water-based lotions is not a good idea, as water freezes. Paw wax or products that are 100% fat-based is better. Unfortunately, many Sloughis love the taste of such products, so they'll lick it off their feet. Therefore, I recommend the following procedure:

First, take your Sloughi into the bathroom and wash his feet with lukewarm water mixed with a fatty soap. Dry the paws thoroughly with a soft towel. Rub generous amounts of a fatty and/or zink-based lotion or cream into the paw pads, and put doggie socks on while it works. Let your Sloughi lounge lazily on the sofa for an hour with the socks on. When you take the socks off, you will need to wipe away the excess lotion/cream if you don't want it all over your floors and furniture. Do not wash the socks afterwards; they will get saturated with lotion, which is a good thing when your Sloughis wears them outdoors. But if they get dirty or covered with road salt, you should rinse them thoroughly in warm water before you let your dog wear them again.

Another thing to think about, is the consistancy of the snow. Fresh snow is powdery and nice, while snow that has lain for a while may develop an icy, knife-sharp crust, especially if the temperatures go up and down. Below-cero fog does something of the same, because the fog leaves scalpel-sharp ice particles on everything it touches. If you're unsure whether the snow's surface may hurt your dog's paws, there's a test you can do: clench your hand into a fist and hit it hard against the snow several times. If the snow is hard and sharp, you'll feel it right away. If the skin on your knucles hurts, then don't let your dogs play on the hard snow. And if you do, then make sure to check their paws extra carefully for cuts and scrapes. Such wounds should be treated with a zinc-based ointment. Any deeper cuts should be treated by a veterinarian.


As for doggie winter coats, I recommend having them tailor made to your Sloughi's measurements. This is because Sloughis in general have shorter backs and deeper chests than other sighthounds. As for fabric, I am very pleased with ordinary, cheap, synthetic fleece, as it actually keeps the dogs both warm and dry. Synthetic fleece is made from plastic, and it doesn't absorb moisture like cotton or wool do. A double layer of fleece will be sufficient to keep your Sloughi warm at -10 degrees Centigrades. For those days when the snow is wet and slushy, or when the wind bites hard, a water-/windproof outer layer is vital. A coat with an outer layer of a water-/windproof fabric, and an inner layer of fleece or a short-haired faux fur, is my recommendation.

As for keeping sensitive genitals warm, my best recommendation is to keep your Sloughi away from deep snow. You won't find a coat that protects those body parts, because such a coat wouldn't allow the dog to do his toilet. Sloughis LOVE to run and play in deep and fluffy snow, but they get cold very fast because the snow cools down their undersides. A coat with a chest-piece may actually be a bad thing if your Sloughi is playing in deep snow, as the snow will gather inside the chest-piece and cool the dog down rather than keep him warm. So don't let them run for more than a few minutes in deep snow, and give their chests and inner thighs a good rub to start their circulation before you put them in your car. If the dog's coat is wet from the snow, it's better to take it off when you put the dog in the car. A wet coat will keep your Sloughi cold even if the car is warm.

You may want to know just how cold the temperature can get before it's too cold for Sloughis. Well, I know two Sloughis who live in the town of Trysil, one of the coldest places in Norway. Winter temperatures regularly drop below -20 degrees Centigrades. The snow sometimes reaches so high that people have to use their upstairs windows to get in and out of their houses. But Sloughis are hardier than you might think, and Badi'ah and Burhan are used to the cold. They'll happily run and play in -20 degrees, but they won't go for a walk when it's that cold. The important thing is to RUN when it's cold, because that keeps the body temperature up.

Also, when getting back inside after being outside in cold weather, it's important to check the paw pads for cracks, and also to rub the earlobes in order to get the circulation going.

A rule of thumb, when you live with dogs in cold climates, is that you have a first aid kit available. Not just a small kit with bandages and such, but a bigger one which includes doggies socks and ointments for treating scrapes and cuts caused by sharp snow and ice. Self-adhesive bandages are also a must-have, because 15 cm deep snow with an ice crust will cut your dog's legs 15 cm up. You need enough bandage to protect your Sloughi's four legs from right above the toes to about 20 cm up the leg. Another important thing is to always have a dry doggie coat in the car, as well as dry and warm blankets.


Living with Sloughis in the near-Arctic may sound like a hassle, but it really isn't. All these precautions become part of your every day life, just as being prepared for venomous snake bites or heat stroke is something that people in warmer climates focus on. As for the Sloughis themselves, they've proven to me that they can adapt well to winter temperatures of -10-20, as long as I look after them. They'll happily run and play in -15 degrees, but once they get back inside they insist on being tucked into layer upon layer of woollen and faux fur blankets. They hate having ointments put on their toes, and they loathe the doggie socks. They're embarrassed to wear their coats, and they look completely miserable when forced to wear snoods. But they'll get used to all of this in time, and they'll be glad that they don't know what it's like to have cracked paws and bleeding ear lobes. And they, like you, will look forward to summer... ;-)



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