Six Tips for Cold Weather Adventures With Your Dog

©istockphoto/blyjakJust because the snow has start­ed to fall doesn’t mean you can’t take your best friend along with you on the trail. Out­door adven­ture on cold days with your pup comes with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges than the sum­mer, spring, and fall and it’s impor­tant to be pre­pared. Keep these tips in mind before embark­ing on your next hik­ing, climb­ing or camp­ing trip with Fido along for the ride.

Groom Paws
One of the biggest con­cerns in win­ter weath­er is pro­tect­ing your dog’s feet from the harsh cold. They’re sus­cep­ti­ble to frost­bite just like us and a lot of own­ers make the mis­take of think­ing they can han­dle walk­ing on snow with­out issue. Before leav­ing home be sure to groom your buddy’s paws by clip­ping the hair between each toe. The hair in these spots will col­lect ice and snow if left long, caus­ing uncom­fort­able and some­times dan­ger­ous con­di­tions for your pup. Long hair and nails can also reduce trac­tion and cause your dog to slip on the ice.

Use Boots
They might look a lit­tle sil­ly, and it’s sure fun to watch your dog in them for the first time, but dog boots are actu­al­ly an excel­lent way to keep his paws safe from the cold. They’re even great the rest of the year too (super hot days with boil­ing asphalt or rocky trails). They’ll keep the dog dry and pro­vide an extra cush­ion in case they step on some­thing sharp hid­den under­neath the snow.

Bun­dle Up
Depend­ing on the breed your dog might need a lit­tle help keep­ing warm in the win­ter months on the trail. If they have short hair or no under­coat, con­sid­er buy­ing a sweater or vest for them to wear out­side. It might take some get­ting used to but they will be health­i­er for it in the long run.

Brings Lots of Water
Even in the cold­er months dogs (and humans!) are still sus­cep­ti­ble to dehy­dra­tion. Bring along plen­ty of water for your dog to drink along the way. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do—they release heat through their mouth and paws—so if you see your dog pant­i­ng a lot that means they need a drink. Also, try to avoid let­ting them chow down on snow as ingest­ing too much could shock their sys­tem and bring down their core tem­per­a­ture too quickly.

Make Your Dog Visible
You’d think a mov­ing mass of black fur would be pret­ty vis­i­ble among a blan­ket of white snow, but you might be sur­prised how quick­ly your dog can blend into a for­est if they get too far away. Help them stand out by using bright-col­ored vests, boots, and a leash. Bright orange is a great option since win­ter tends to be hunt­ing sea­son in many places and you don’t want your dog to be mis­tak­en for a deer.

Con­di­tion Your Dog
Just like humans, dogs need to build up their tol­er­ance to dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments. Once the cold sets in we often find our­selves feel­ing slug­gish and slow­ing down a bit, some­times for a cou­ple of weeks, before our bod­ies accli­mate and we return to peak con­di­tion. Before tak­ing a long trip be sure to con­di­tion your pup by putting in some short prac­tice runs. It’ll allow them to get used to the cold at a good pace so they will be ready to keep up on the trail.