Winter Hiking Dog Tips
There are no words that accurately describe my complete love obsession with winter. I feel a slight “meh” about everything 3 seasons of the year, and then winter hits and the child in me awakens. Maybe it’s the beautiful blankets of white that hug Mother Nature’s mountainous curves. Or the blizzards that force everyone to snuggle together by the fire. The anticipation of weightless powder turns or that feeling I have after I can’t help but utter “that was the best single turn of my life!”
Whatever the reason for my wintertime stoke, I can assure you, my love of snow pales in comparison to the sheer joy that my dog has for this time of year. Gone are the days of panting in the heat, of laying on the bathroom floor trying to cool down. Of being left home alone with the cat because it’s too hot to hike. Screw that! It’s time to play, romp, prance, and roll in the beautiful fluff outside. Catch snow balls, sprint for no reason at all, jump like a dear, and when no one is looking, make some yellow snow.
If your dog is anything like mine, you share a fondness of playing outside in the cold. Winter is a great time to explore the outdoors with your dog and you can both stay active and healthy while enjoying wintertime hikes. That said, it’s important to make sure your dog stays warm, hydrated, and happy when you two are out in the snow. Many dogs LOVE and can handle cold conditions. That said, many breeds can only tolerate cold conditions for short periods of time, or not at all. Make sure your activity is suited for your dog’s breed and is age appropriate in order to have a great winter together. Need help? Learn about “How Cold is too Cold for Dogs” before venturing out this winter.
Spread Stoke Winter Hiking Dog Tips:
1. Keep the Trails Clean. Joking about “eating yellow snow” is much more fun than stepping in poop. Plus, as a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to help keep hiking trails clean and clear for everyone to enjoy. Keeping an entire roll of earth friendly biodegradable pick-up bags with you is a MUST. These can be carried in a pocket, on a leash, or in your dogs pack for quick and easy access.
2. Trail Dog First Aid. Dogs are pretty susceptible to injuries while hiking. There are plenty of things to slice a paw open on, branches to run into, or rocks/ice to slip out on. Make sure you bring a doggy specific medical kit with you on your adventure. Not all are created equal. We suggest one that has an eye wash, a pet first aid booklet to review BEFORE you go out, irrigation syringe, tape, multiple wipes (antibiotic and alcohol versions) various wound closures, and gauze are also good to check for.
3. Hydration and Snacks. Sprinting around in the snow is fun, no doubt! Winter hikes can dehydrate both of you while burning calories o’plenty. Make sure your pup has plenty of fresh drinking water and don’t forget to bring snacks/food in case you need to rest for a bite or if you have an emergency and get stuck somewhere overnight. There are a ton of great dog food pack options and water containers out there. I’ve taught mine to actually drink out of a water bottle for quick and easy access while on the go, but always bring a bowl for him/her to drink out of as well. Provide your furry one with water at least every 15-20 minutes.
4. Doggy Gear & Accessories. Depending on your dog’s breed, you may need different items to keep him/her safe and warm this winter. Things to consider: Does your dog get cold easily? Does your dog have a natural winter undercoat? Does your dog’s fur hold moisture or collect snow and ice? Does your pup need winter boots? Your dog might need an insulated jacket, snow slicker, booties, or the like to stay warm and dry out there. You might also consider buying bright colored jackets, harnesses, and leashes so it’s easy to spot your snow beast in all that white! If your dog will NOT wear boots (I feel you!) keep an eye on their paws to prevent & clean out ice & snow build up. That brings us to…
5. Pause for the Paws: When hiking with dogs in the snow, the fur between their paw pads can collect ice melt, snow, ice, dirt, salt and all sorts of other nasty winter things. They can also freeze, split, crack or get cut. Keep your eyes on them, clean them out, and don’t let your best friend eat/lick ice melt or salt off their paws when they’re out and about. Or, bribe them with bacon to keep their winter boots on (good luck with that!). If bribery doesn’t work, grab some Musher’s Secret, a dense barrier wax for all season protection.
6. Pack It In, Pack It Out! I have a working dog, so she obviously LOVES any task given to her. One of her tasks is to carry her own stuff on a hike. This allows me more room in my pack for extra water and jackets (and let’s be honest, a few beers) and Kira carries her own load. Plus, then I don’t have to put poop filled bags in MY pack. Her poop, her problem! Different dogs can handle different sized loads and packs. Make sure yours is appropriate for the difficultly of your hike and your dog. I suggest grabbing a bright colored pack with multiple compartments, light reflectors, and a front leash attachment. I also LOVE a pack that has a handle on the saddle so I can quickly grab my snow beast when needed. Also make sure that each side of the pack has equal loads of weight so it sits properly on your pup’s back.
7. Leash Up. While there are TONS of off-leash doggy trails all around the country (check the local laws before you venture out), you never know when you need to secure your buddy with a leash. Maybe you see a few wild animals roaming around, sprinting children that might get herded, or lots of traffic at your local trail head. Always keep a leash with you and ready to use.
Most of all, enjoy your time together in the snow and let the stoke fly.