Ever thought about bringing your dog with you on your next snowshoe outing? It’s an excellent way to keep yourself and your pet puppy fit throughout the winter. It also serves as a different way to experience many of your favorite summer trails.
While hiking in snowy winter conditions can be as simple as packing a few essentials and strapping on your snowshoes, there are a few additional things you’ll want to be aware of before hitting the trail for your dog’s first snowshoe adventure.
Monitor Signs of Exhaustion
Hiking in snow means extra exertion for your pup. Until someone invents “dog snowshoes”, their feet will sink several inches in the snow, which will require more energy than hiking on bare dirt. Make sure you know the signs that your dog shows when it gets exhausted. The first signs are easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, and typically include lagging behind or moving slower.
Protect Their Feet
One of the places that dogs often get frostbite is their feet. Walking on rough snowballs and ice can cause sores and make ice to stick between the paw pads. The best way to prevent these issues is to keep your dog moving and warm. The heat radiating the paw pads can help keep their paws snow-free, but that may not be enough in some instances.
You might also want to trim the fur between the foot pads and apply a protective balm, or even get them their own booties to help protect their feet. While you’re on the trail, it’s important to check their feet often, especially if not wearing dog booties.
Verify That the Hike is Dog-Friendly
Some snow park trails are safe and friendly to hike with a pet while others aren’t. Hiking trails that are safe for a pup during the summer may not be suitable for dogs in the winter. Some types of trails such as those groomed for snowmobiling can make it unfriendly and unsafe to hike with a puppy.
Check With Your Veterinarian
Walking in deep, powdery snow requires more energy than most hikes or even jogging around a walkway. As such, you might need a vet to check whether your dog is healthy or fit enough for a rigorous and cold snowshoeing activity.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated
Your pup will often pant in the summers, and it’s likely to drink more water when it’s thirsty. During winter, the signs that your dog is overheating may not be as obvious, and they might not be willing to drink water as often as necessary. As such, it’s up to you to be sure they drink plenty of water ahead of a snowshoeing trek. Bring water along and offer it to them often. You can even add a little no-sodium chicken stock to entice it to drink even more.
Keep Your Pet Warm
It may be helpful for a pet to wear a coat depending on the nature of its fur and breed. You can opt for an insulated dog jacket to help protect the puppy from harsh environmental elements and keep them warm. However, jackets might not be enough to keep small dogs warm, so you might need to cover the pet with a blanket at night or during breaks.
Know Hypothermia Signs
Elderly dogs and puppies are often susceptible to conditions such as hypothermia. A pet that has sustained low body temperature is at risk of several complications, which can become fatal if not addressed promptly. Dilated pupils, slowed breathing, and strong shivering is some of the signs of a significant drop in body temperature. Frostbite and lethargy may follow these signs, so as soon as you notice potential signs, cover them with a warm blanket, get them off the trail as soon as possible, and give it warm liquids to bring their body temperature back up.
Pack Something Your Dog Can Stand On During Breaks
You can also protect your dog’s feet from frostbite and keep them off the snow during rest breaks. Bring a warm blanket with you to give the pet a snuggly nest to lounge in as you make a hot coffee or chocolate. Never take any snowshoe trip without a warm blanket and insulating jacket.
Pack a Snack
Your pet will burn lots of extra calories during a snowshoe hike. Consider bringing snacks to help replenish their energy. Snacks that are high in protein and fat to give the strength your dog needs to hike and aid in its muscle recovery. You can carry beef fat, melted in warm water thermos to keep the pet hydrated and give it an energy boost.
Taking your dog with you any time you head out for an adventure on the trail is an excellent way to bond and strengthen your relationship. Keeping these health and safety tips in mind, you can keep hiking year round, and your pup will learn to love snowshoe outings just as much as you do!