Winter. This year we’ve seen a lot more mud puddles than snowmen, but we’ve still managed to get out lots and lots. We’ve got a dog, you see, and he doesn’t let weather ever stand in his way. On those dreary days when we’d just as soon lounge around in bed, our Ogden sits patiently by the door, waiting for us to give up our hibernating and get outside.
We’re thankful for Ogden and all the dogs that have come before him, because, rain or shine, snow or sleet, we get out there, and because of our dogs, we enjoy every minute of it. It doesn’t take much to adventure with your dog in the winter – just a bit of will power to get out the door and a whole lot of love for your favorite explorer. Ready to get out there?
Snowshoeing with Your Dog
Snowshoeing, with it’s slow pace through lovely winter landscapes, is a perfect activity to share with your dog. It’s fairly easy to handle the end of a leash on snowshoes, and your pup can walk behind you in your tracks if the snow gets too deep. Here are some tips for snowshoeing with your favorite companion.
- Consider your dog’s stamina. Walking and running through snow can be physically demanding — for you and your dog. Take it slow, especially at first, and if you notice signs of fatigue in your pup, be prepared to turn around.
- Protect your dog from the cold. Prolonged exposure to the elements can lead to frostbite or hypothermia. Don’t assume that because your dog has a coat of fur, he won’t get cold. Short-haired breeds may benefit from an extra layer, like the Ruffwear Powderhound, on really cold days. The top half is insulated, while the bottom is technical stretch fabric for a nice range of motion. The Powderhound also has sleeves instead of straps so the coat stays on really well.
- Protect your pup’s feet. If your dog will wear them, boots are really nice for protecting your dog’s feet from the cold and the icy patches you’re bound to encounter. We love these Ruffwear Polar Trex boots, and they stay on pretty well, but we have lots a few over the years, especially in deep snow. If I know we’re going to be out in the deep snow, we rely on Musher’s Secret, a wax-based ointment made in Canada that protects our dogs from ice build-up and snow-balling. It also works great protecting the dogs’ paws from salt on the roads.
- Try a running leash. If you’re using poles, or just don’t want to deal with holding a leash in your mittened hands, try a hands-free leash that wraps securely around your waste. The EzyDog Runner Leash is 7 feet long and made with built-in shock absorbers, perfect for active pups and their companions.
Cross-Country Skiing with Your Dog
Cross-country skiing is a fast and quiet sport, the perfect exercise to get you heart pumping and your dog panting. You can cross-country ski on groomed trails, or you can break your own trail in the woods, fields, or parks where you live.
Skiing with your dog is a little bit trickier than snowshoeing, but it can be really rewarding if you plan ahead. Here’s what you should know about cross-country skiing with your dog.
- You really shouldn’t use a leash. Because you’re moving at a faster pace than snowshoeing, there’s more potential for injury if you’re tied to your dog. Instead, train your dog to reliably respond to your voice commands, and enjoy all the freedom it allows you. It’s so worth the time and effort.
- Mind your fellow skiers. More and more nordic ski centers are designating dog-friendly trails for pups and their humans to ski together. You’re bound to find other dog-lovers on these trails, and some other dogs too. If you aren’t on a trail specifically created for people and dogs, be mindful of the other skiers on the trail. Clean up after your dog and be sure to keep him with you at all times. If you think this could be a problem, stick to wilderness trails where you won’t find many people.
- Take Lots of Breaks. Running through the snow is even more demanding than walking behind snowshoes. Be sure to stop every 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your dog’s level of physical fitness. Give your dog plenty of water and a little snack every hour or so. This Kurgo collapsible bowl will tuck neatly into your backpack for water breaks.
Winter Safety Tips for Your Dog
Snowshoeing and skiing are our favorite ways to get out in the winter, but this year, with no snow in our part of Vermont, we’ve been doing a lot more hiking, and even walking and running on the roads. Depending on the dog we’re going out with, we make use of Musher’s Secret or the Polar Trex dog boots whenever we walk on the salty winter pavement. Here are a few more general tips for enjoying winter with your dog.
- How cold is too cold? During extremely frigid temperatures, your dog’s ears may be susceptible to frostbite. The time a person or a dog should spend outside in cold weather is determined by the outside temperature and the wind chill factor. The chart below will give you a good idea of how long an adult dog should spend outside in the cold. Young pups and senior dogs should spend less time outdoors.
- Inspect your dog’s paws after each winter walk, especially if your dog doesn’t wear boots. Use a soft wet cloth to clean off the salt and chemicals from your dog’s paws. You don’t want him licking them when they’re covered in gunk!
- Make sure your dog drinks enough water. The drive to drink isn’t as strong in cooler temperatures, so you may have to remind your dog to stay hydrated.
One of the best things about dogs is that they’re ALWAYS ready for an adventure. In fact, I think we love the outdoors as much as we do because of our dogs. They remind us that life doesn’t begin and end within the comfort of four sturdy walls.
There’s an amazing world to explore out there, and it’s up to us to get out and enjoy it. How does your dog fit into your winter adventures? We’d love to hear your own tips in the comments below.
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