Winter is one my favorite times to hike outdoors with my dog, especially when the powder is dumping, and the trails are empty and quiet. Hiking in winter is a great way to get fun exercise in, plus the landscapes look different, and there are new smells. Be prepared with these 3 Tips for Hiking Safely with your Dogs in Winter!
1. Be prepared for frosty paws
In Winter, I always carry two things for my dog – Bailey’s Paw Shield and Pawz Water Proof Dog Boots. A paw shield can be applied before, during, or after a hike with your pup in the snow – it helps to create a layer of protection on their paws so that snow and ice doesn’t stick in between their pads, as well as prevent damage, and cracked paws. It’s also fast-acting so you don’t have to wait in the cold while it dries. Just apply on the pads, then you’re ready! The Pawz Water Proof Dog Boots are also great in winter for extreme conditions, or dogs with longer hair that ball up. Just slip on the bootie, and no worry about snowballs building up. I also use these for first aid – I’ll bandage the part of the paw that is bleeding or hurt, then slip the bootie on over to keep it clean.
2. Always Check Avalanche Conditions
Before venturing into unknown territory, consider taking an avalanche awareness or training course. It will help you recognize terrain traps, asses terrain, and learn how to select a “safe” trail. Learning how to read an avalanche advisory is one of the best things you can do to keep not only you but your dog safe while hiking in Winter. In general, you’ll want to avoid hiking under or near steep slopes (greater than 30 degrees), in tight gulley’s or couloirs, or right after a big snow storm when the snowpack is at it’s weakest. Training your dog with certain commands, such as “stop” or “wait”, is helpful as well so they learn to stop hiking at a potentially risky section of trail (such as a cornice). Check your local REI or Avalanche Center for classes.
3. Keep a Down Jacket Handy
Just like people get cold standing around in Winter, so do dogs. Know and recognize the signs of a cold dog: shivering, stopping all of the sudden on the trail, random barking without moving, lifting paws up one at a time, slowed movement, or curling up while taking a break. I highly recommend keeping the Ruffwear Quinzee Coat in your pack at all times, in case your dog does get cold. The Quinzee coat is a weather-resistant, insulated down jacket that is ideal for keeping your fur-baby warm during cold-weather activities. It even packs down into a stuff sack while not in use. This jacket is also great for wind protection. Just make sure the coat doesn’t get soaking wet, otherwise, it will defeat the purpose of keeping warmth locked in.
About the Author
Alicia Baker is a Six Moon Designs Ambassador, and owner of “Girl on a Hike”, a blog that follows Alicia and her hiking companion, Charlie, a Golden Lab, on their outdoor adventures. She has lived in Utah since 2013 and loves exploring everything from the High Uintas to the San Rafael Swell and desert. Each year, she and Charlie hike and backpack an average of 700 miles. “Girl on a Hike” has been awarded as one of the Top 100 Outdoor & Hiking Blogs from 2016 through 2018. She is also the author of "Salt Lake City's Best 52 Hikes", available only on Amazon.