Taking your dog snowshoeing is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors. The only problem is that not all dogs can handle the cold, plus there are many other risks that come from these winter treks.
In this blog post, we will provide you 14 safety tips for snowshoeing with dogs to help keep your pup safe while allowing them to have fun exploring the snowy wilderness!
1. Make Sure Your Dog is up-to-date on their
Before hitting your nearby dog-friendly snowy trails, make sure that your furry friend is up-to-date on their vaccinations. They must be current for rabies, distemper, and parvo, to name a few.
The reason being is that viruses like canine parvovirus can damage a dog’s intestines, causing loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and can be fatal. Without proper protection, you risk exposing them to this deadly virus.
If you’re not entirely sure about your dog’s shots’ status, check with your vet. Also, ask your vet for flea and tick preventive product recommendations, as these pesky pests can survive in cold weather.
2. Know Your
Trudging through unpacked snow or breaking trail is way more challenging and strenuous than your usual hike with your dog during the summertime.
So, unless you know how to build an igloo, let’s be honest about your fido’s limitations and be realistic when selecting the routes, terrain type, and elevation gain for snowshoeing adventures with dogs.
For instance, if you have a senior pup, they may be only suitable to hike low-elevation trails without many slopes, while younger, high-energy breeds can take on a more challenging route. Likewise, you would want to avoid long-distance hikes unless you know your pup can do so comfortably.
It’s also a good idea to ask yourself if your dog is suitable to go snowshoeing?
3. Dress Your Dog in
Coats and Boots to Keep Them Warm
You’ll want to take your dog’s breed into account when planning your snowshoeing adventure with your pooch, as some are better suited for winter hikes than others.
For example, Siberian Huskies have a high tolerance to colder climates and can do well in snow conditions. On the other hand, dog breeds like Pugs and Greyhounds may not fare as well because they don’t have the luxury of a thick coat to protect them from the frigid temperature.
If your pup is the latter who is sensitive to the cold, make sure to dress them in a dog winter coat to help keep them dry and warm, and put snow boots on them to prevent the formation of snowballs and ice balls, ultimately ensuring they are comfortable!
4. Letting Your Pup Wear a
GPS Dog Collar is a Must
Imagine if something caught your dog’s attention, and they decide to take off without waiting for you and get lost. You could spend hours looking for them or, worse, never be able to bring your furry pal back home.
So, it is a must that your canine wears a GPS dog collar when going on winter hikes. If the above scenario were to occur, you would be able to locate your dog’s precise location and bring them back safely.
5. Bring a
First Aid Kit for Emergencies
While there are lots of gear, equipment, and essentials your dog needs for hiking in winter, bringing a first aid kit is particularly important, as you never know when you’ll need it, maybe for your dog or yourself!
Many people and dogs get injured while on outdoor adventures, and if the injury is small enough to self-treat with a bandage or ointment, great! But what if your fido falls down a hill and breaks their legs? What then?
Having an emergency first aid kit with you allows you to provide your furkid with the necessary medical treatment until help arrives. It’s not worth risking their life for lack of proper care in a time of need.
6. Watch for Signs of
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Prolonged exposure to the cold can lead to frostbite and hypothermia in dogs, and short-haired dogs, puppies, and elderly dogs are most susceptible. Symptoms of frostbite include discoloration of the affected area, swollen skin, and blisters.
Symptoms of hypothermia in dogs will typically be shivering, dilated pupils, and lethargy. However, it can progress into more severe stages without seeking immediate medical attention, resulting in a slowed heart rate, slowed breathing rate, collapse, coma, or even death.
So, it’s crucial to watch for these symptoms when out on a snow outing. If your pup starts displaying any signs of frostbite or hypothermia, wrap them up with a dog blanket or place a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel against their abdomen, then take them to the nearby veterinarian as soon as possible!
7. Walk on
Dogs can often post holes, especially while traveling in deep snow and if you are letting them walk next to you or in front of you. Not only is this tiring for them, but it can also make your dog’s feet cold, achy, and sore.
So you would want to either choose a packed-down trail or teach them to walk behind you instead. This way, they will have better stability with each step, plus this will allow them to expend less energy so that they don’t become too exhausted before reaching the destination!
8. Take Plenty of
Breaks and Give Your Dog Lots of Water
It’s important to know that dogs tire just as quickly as people do when they take on strenuous activities at high altitudes and freezing temperatures. And dehydration can easily set in during such rigorous exercise, so be sure to make frequent stops and provide your dog with plenty of water.
It’s also a good idea to keep the water stored inside one of those insulated koozies just in case the day turns out colder than anticipated. And what you might want to do is invest in hydration packs made especially for dogs to ensure adequate water supplies.
9. Bring a
Compass and an Old-School Map
While bringing a GPS unit is necessary, it’s wise to bring an old-school map and compass as well. You never know when the battery will die or what if you suddenly didn’t get a signal.
Things happen. People go snowshoeing with dogs, GPS stops working, and they lose their way, hence why it is vital to bring a compass and maps as backup and make sure you know how to use them. They are essential for finding your way back out as well as staying on course along the way.
The last thing you want is to find yourself and your dog lost among the woods or mountainside with no water or food! And that could very quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.
Aware of Your Surroundings
Cliffs, steep drop-offs, thin ice, and avalanche are all real risks of snowshoeing with dogs in the backcountry. So, be sure to stay aware of your surroundings and make sure to watch out for any potential hazards that could put your dog or yourself at risk.
If you are snowshoeing near trees and brush, keep an eye out for any possible animal tracks. You don’t want to run into any dangerous wild animals, as they could end up making a quick meal out of your fido!
11. Always Have an
The moments that seem the most carefree can quickly turn into an emergency if you are not prepared. So be sure to always have an emergency plan in place before heading out on your next snowshoeing adventure with your pup!
A well-thought-out plan should include all possible emergencies with clear and easy-to-understand steps to handle the situations. For instance, what if your dog gets injured? The solution for that is to have a well-stocked first aid and carrier on hand and that it’s ready to go. You would also need to know how to treat the injury and if there’s any vet nearby.
Having an emergency plan is vital because once something happens out there in nature, time is precious! The last thing you want is to suddenly realize you don’t know what to do when something goes wrong.
12. Check the
This tip may look obvious, yet many people forget to do so before heading out. Imagine if you get caught in a blizzard or snowstorm, it will take much longer to make your way back home, or worse, you and your dog might get stuck in the wilderness.
So it is imperative to check the weather forecast for your hiking destination, and there’s no harm to check it twice or even three times! This way, you can prepare accordingly, and you won’t have to deal with the aftermath of bad weather. If it’s unsafe to go out, come up with other plans for that day or just stay home!
Tell Your Family and Friends Before Heading Out
It is also crucial to tell your family and friends where exactly you are going, your estimated return time, and what to do if something goes wrong. Ensure to have your contact person call the authorities for help if you don’t return by the planned time.
The most common situation that this advice applies is in case of an emergency. You never know what might happen out there due to weather conditions, injury, etc., so it’s best to get on the safe side and tell someone about your plans.
14. Inspect Your
Dog’s Paws After the Winter Hike
The cold weather can dry out your dog’s feet and can cause cracked pads and infection. So, you would need to inspect their paws after your winter snowshoeing excursions, especially if they don’t have dog boots shielding them from the elements.
Clean their feet after any winter hike with a soft, damp cloth or paw washer to get rid of any irritants, and it’s also a good idea to apply paw balms with rich emollients to keep your dog’s paws in tip-top shape!
After reading this article, you should be well-informed about the proper safety precautions to take when snowshoeing with your dog. And you know, we could tell you all day about what to do, what not to do, and how to be safe while hiking on snowy trails. But it’s just as crucial for us to emphasize that there are so many things in this world that no one can control but yourself! So when something doesn’t feel right or sound off, listen to your instinct and act accordingly.