10 Things You Should Know About Winter Hiking With Your Dog
Posted by John Addleman | December 09, 2019
Let’s face it, one of the very best things to do is hike with our best fur-friend. During the Spring and Summer trails are full of 2-legged and 4-legged hikers enjoying the scenery and beauty of nature. Come Winter the landscape changes, the scenery changes, the snow-covered forests seem more serene, and most trails are practically empty. For this reason, Winter hiking can be some of the best hiking of the year for you and your 4-legged trail buddy.
10 Things to Know for Winter Hiking with Your Dog
While we usually spend a fair bit of time contemplating our own needs ahead of a winter hike, there are numbers of considerations that should be factored in for your dog before you hit the trail.
Plan for Success
It is important to remember that not all dogs are created equal, at least when it comes to hiking. Consider the age and breed of your dog. Puppies and older dogs can be especially susceptible to injuries that would not otherwise occur. How susceptible to the cold will your dog be? How rigorous will the hike be? Choosing a hike that can be completed successfully will be much more enjoyable for your dog, and you. Have a backup destination planned, should your primary turn out to be unworkable. After all, you’ve gone through the trouble of preparing and your trail buddy is certainly bursting with anticipation. Finally, be sure to check that dogs are allowed at your planned destinations, and if there are any other requirements to consider before departing.
Proper Attire Required
We are adept to planning for our own comfort, but let’s not overlook what might be needed by your dog. To stay warm, we dress in layers. Some breeds, such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, have layers of thick fur that allow them to thrive in cold temperatures and in the snow. Other breeds without additional thick undercoats, such as labs and terriers, can become cold more quickly. Special jackets and coats, like the Kurgo Loft Jacket, can give your dog an extra layer of protection needed for longer treks in colder environments.
As tough as your dog’s paws might seem, they can become cracked and chapped. During the winter months, these issues can be problematic. In addition to the discomfort of cracked and chapped pads, ice buildup between their toes can be especially painful. A thorough check of your dog’s paws should be routine, both during and after a hike. A common way to protect your dog’s paws is with booties. Vibram sole booties, such as the Ruffwear Polar Trex booties, are a great way to provide insulation, add traction, and protect their feet from the elements.
We’ve all experienced the painful glare off the snow on a sunny day, or the blinding bombardment of blowing powder on a windy day. That is why we wear sunglasses or goggles. Your dog has the same issue too. There are numerous styles of canine goggles, such as RexSpecs, that will provide the extra protection your dog’s eyes deserve, and they’ll look cool too.
Consider the duration of your planned hike and pack accordingly. For longer hikes plan to carry snacks and water specifically dedicated for your dog. Like you, increased activity in colder temperatures will force your dog to burn more calories. Seasonal water sources may be frozen or buried beneath the snow, which could lead to your dog becoming dehydrated. Carry a collapsible bowl, like a Ruffwear Bivy Bowl, along with an insulated water bottle. Plan frequent breaks and provide an opportunity for your dog to drink water and grab a quick snack.
Like any training, start slow and increase gradually. Training in the winter is often more challenging. It is the same for your dog. Start the season off with short and simple hikes. As the season progresses you can increase the intensity of the hikes. Consider how the snow will affect your dog. Is the trail clear or will you be wading knee deep through the snow? Knee deep snow for you might be chest deep for your dog.
Like you, your dog could become susceptible to frostbite or hypothermia. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and watch for signs of cold weather injuries. Here are some signs and indicators to watch for:
- Uncontrollable shivering
- Whining for no reason
- Stopping or refusing to continue
- Anxious and searching for shelter
- Slow breathing
- Dilated pupils
No matter how well you know the trail in the summer months, winter routes can vary and new hazards may emerge. Fresh powder can conceal hazards that can be particularly dangerous for your dog, such as cliffs, mountain edges, thin ice, snow bridges, tree wells, and sharp rocks or sticks. Wearing a bright colored coat or jacket is a good way to keep a positive visual on your dog, especially if he is roaming off-leash. A glow-stick can also help during early morning or evening hours where limited visibility may be encountered. Know and understand avalanche zones and avoid them always.
First Aid Kit
It is always a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit, tailored for the season and the environment. Be sure to stuff a few extras into your backpack’s first aid kit that might be relevant to your dog, such as Eco-Fused Self Adhering Bandages, tweezers, scissors, headlamp, and a thermo-blanket. Using a dry bag, such as the Yampa Dry Bag, is a great way to ensure that all your survival gear stays dry and ready in case of an emergency.
Like you, your dog will have had a good workout. Once you are home, give them a good rubdown. You will massage their tired muscles and can examine them for any injuries previously undetected. Provide access to plenty of water and be prepared for a big appetite.
Building Great Memories
Winter hiking is unique, challenging, and often the best of the year. With proper planning and preparation, you and your 4-legged trail buddy can make some of the best memories that will last a lifetime!
At Pack Rabbit, we build and design the very best gear, we never stop evolving, and we continue to innovate novel outdoor gear solutions. Contact us today or call 214-774-4363 if you have any questions. You can also check out the full line of backpacks that are redefining how you experience the outdoors.