Back Road Ramblers

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Adventure, gear and clothing, hiking, Travel Tips, travel with dogs, winter sports

Tips for Winter Adventuring with Your Dog

winter adventures with dogs

If you share your life with a dog, you probably already know that winter poses some unique opportunities and challenges for adventuring. Most dogs, especially the young ones, don’t differentiate between beautiful sunny days and frigid snowy ones. They are up for anything, despite the weather.

On the one hand, our dogs are an inspiration – getting us off the couch and out of our weather-induced funk. On the other hand, dogs make it hard to enjoy those days when you would rather be cuddling up with a good book. Sigh…

winter with dogs

This is Flynn, our third Guiding Eyes puppy who has become our forever dog

When it comes down to it, we’re thankful for all the dogs in our lives. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we get outside, and because of our dogs, we enjoy (just about) 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 started with some canine-inspired outdoor adventuring? Here are some of the tips we’ve learned from a lifetime of sharing our lives with dogs. 

Please note: This post contains affiliate links to our favorite adventure dog supplies and accessories. If you click on the link and make a purchase, we will make a small commission. As always, thanks so much for supporting Back Road Ramblers.
snowshoeing with dogs

Ogden – Guiding Eyes puppy #5.

Tips for Snowshoeing with Your Dog

snowshoeing with your dogs

Ocho – Guiding Eyes puppy #4 and his best friend, Emma.

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 of our favorite tips for snowshoeing with dogs.

  • 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 (and not salt and ice), we rely on Musher’s Secret, a wax-based ointment made in Canada that protects paws from ice build-up and snow-balling. It also works great protecting our 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.
snowshoeing with your dog

This is Nacho, our fourth Guiding Eyes puppy with his buddy, Moxie.

Tips for Cross-Country Skiing with Your Dog

cross-country skiing with dogs

Sometimes the dogs get in the way.

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.
cross-country skiing with dogs

Guiding Eyes puppy #1, Raleigh.

Winter Safety Tips for Dogs

Snowshoeing and skiing are our favorite ways to get out in the winter, but when the snow gods don’t bless us, we spend time 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.windchill chart for your dog
  • 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.
snowshoeing with your dog

Tulle (RIP) was one of our regular visitors who loved winter sports

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.

Want to read more about adventuring with dogs? Check out these posts:

How to Road Trip with your Dog for the Best Vacation Ever

The Complete Guide to Paddling with Dogs

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  1. I had no idea you could have so much outdoor fun with a dog! It’s great to know! Nice idea to protect your pooch’s feet with all the cold conditions.

  2. Such fabulous tips! We haven’t done winter travel with our dog before, but I have a feeling he would go nuts!!

  3. This is really informative. Great tips for pet owners. I don’t have a pet, but I would like to try snow shoeing sometime. It looks like a great way to explore the outdoors in winter.

  4. It looks like you’ve got a lovely little clan of pups! I love so much that you’ve included this – it’s so important to take care of our voiceless furry ones!

  5. Wow. This looks like such an interesting way to be active and bond with your dog. You make a great point about considering your dog’s ability as well as the cold temps.

  6. This is such a detailed and helpful post! I don’t have a dog myself but have friends who would definitely benefit from reading this. Have scheduled to share on the A4A FB page for Thursday.

  7. What great ways to get outside and explore with your furry friends! We have a chihuahua/pug dog and he’s got very little stamina for distances and zero tolerance for cold on his little paws. But he does love to go on hikes with us! He can do a mile or two and then I have a puppy carrier so he can just enjoy the ride! Thanks for sharing tips – I’ll have to spread them on to my big-dog owners!

  8. This makes me want to get a dog even more! Growing up we used to play with our dogs in the snow and they would ride the snowmobiles with us around the farm! I used to do cross country skiing as a kid, but haven’t in years! When we do get a dog I would love to attempt doing that with it!

  9. This is such a great post. And some brilliant advice for dog owners looking for adventures. I miss my dog so much and these photos have totally cheered me up! That little German Shepard puppy OMG ADORABLE!

  10. Awesome tips! You’d dogs are gorgeous and this post made me miss my dog.


  11. I love anything having to do with dogs so this post made me smile. I never knew there was that much to consider when being outdoors with them. Now I live in Florida so luckily do not have to worry about the snow but still good info.

  12. What a fun post! We have been so bad about getting our dog active on the colder days. This is a great idea

  13. I always love reading about your adventurous life ….so true that that whether it is dogs or humans, we all need an adventure beyond the 4 walls…

  14. Great tips and beautiful dogs!

  15. Took our dog to see the snow in taho and she loved it! Wish I had brought a sled, she would have loved to pull us. She’s a husky. The moment she hit snow, she just wanted to run!

  16. “because, rain or shine, snow or sleet, we get out there, and because of our dogs.”

    Love this because it is so true! Dogs make you appreciate the great outdoors more!

  17. So many things to consider for our four legged family members! Sometimes, people forget pets have limitations too when it comes to the cold.

  18. This is so great! The dogs look like they are enjoying this so much!

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