Just 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.
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.
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.
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.