Dogs and the outdoors go together like fine wine and cheese, whiskey and coke, a beer and burger, you get the idea. And every skier knows that your best outdoor companion is your dog! Here at SKIS.com, we support that notion with our slew of office dogs that are our best work and play companions.
This is the season for snow hikes, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, if you need a break from all that downhill. If you haven’t taken your best furry friend with you on these adventures yet, you definitely should. So if you’re looking to do some cross country skiing and trekking with your dog, check out some of the tips, tricks, and gear below.
Make Sure Your Dog is Ready
First and most importantly, you need to be sure your dog is ready for this kind of adventure. Your dog needs to be well-trained, healthy, and used to time outdoors and on a leash. Some people may think that only big dogs are going to well with winter treks and cross country, but that’s not always the case. Big dogs will have an easier time getting through deeper snow and rougher terrain, but if your trial is packed down and you have an enthusiastic dog that loves the snow, don’t rule little Fido out!
Also consider how healthy and in shape your dog is as well. Are they up to date on all their shots? Have they been feeling under the weather at all lately? And are they used to lots of exercise? If you’re dog doesn’t take regular walks or have longer periods of activity on a normal basis, taking them out for an extended hike or walk during the winter isn’t a good idea. They may get cold or tired fast, and without a warm place to take a rest, this can create a more dangerous situation. So work your pup up to such an adventure if they aren’t ready by taking shorter jaunts in the snow and see how they go.
Gear for Your Pup
Just like how you gear up for an adventure before you leave, make sure your dog has the proper gear for their hike as well. The first thing to consider would be how warm your pup is normally. If they have a husky-like coat of fur they will probably be okay. If not, be sure to pick up a doggie coat (in the right size of course) to keep your furball warm. And don’t forget booties! Your pup’s paws in the snow for prolonged periods of time can cause frostbite and bits of debris to get caught between their toes.
You will also want to consider other dog accessories for your outing to make the experience the best possible for you and your dog. First, make sure your dog has a harness. A normal dog collar isn’t a great idea for snow treks, your dog may get stuck in the snow or other areas and to safely pull them back up, you don’t want to yank on their throat. A harness will give maximum support for sticky situations, and especially if you intend on your dog helping you along by pulling (for skijoring). Be sure to also get a sturdy leash that won’t break or tear against the elements and with hard use.
As with any extended hike with your dog, you’ll want to bring extra items for your pup like food and water. A collapsible water bowl is always a good idea, and in terms of carrying water for both you and your pup, consider picking up a hydration pack that will allow you to carry water in your backpack with easy access. You also will want to bring some treats and extra food if you’re going to be out for more than a couple of hours. We would also suggest bringing a towel to wipe off your pup and their paws from extra snow or debris during your break, and a first aid kit for you and your dog in case of mini emergencies (yes, there are special made dog first aid kits out there). And if all this gear gets a little too much for you to carry yourself, think about picking up a dog backpack so your doggo can carry their own gear.
Snow Activity Options
Now that your pup is all ready to go, it’s time to decide what the perfect snow activity is for you and your dog. Let’s start with the easiest one, normal treks and hikes through a trail or paved area. If your dog is a novice for winter fun, this will be the easiest way to work them into activities and see how they handle it. Just remember that winter conditions bring on extra considerations for your dog, as we mentioned above. Check out BringFido.com for trails and hikes in your area that’s dog friendly. For more info on how to get started with your dog on the trails check out our blog on doggie day trips.
If your dog is snow friendly and used to extended activity, look into some off-road trekking into the snowy woods. Hikes off the trail mean more potential dangers to consider, such as colder ground, more obstacles and dangers for paws, and faster rates of exhaustion. Trudging through snow is far more tiring than walks on packed snow, for you and your dog. To make it a little easier on you, considering stepping up your adventure with a set of snowshoes. Just be sure that before you take your dog out with you on your snowshoes, that you dog is comfortable with them first. Personally, my dog loses his mind every time he sees an inanimate object he doesn’t recognize. Consider spending some time getting your dog comfortable with your snowshoes before you head off into the woods so you don’t end up face first in the snow with a dog that’s trying to attack your shoes.
If you’ve got a dog that was born to pull a sled, loves the snow more than bacon, and is already a pro at outdoor adventures, then it may be time to step up your pair time to Skijoring with your dog. Skijoring, for those who are unfamiliar, is an ancient sport that has been updated to modern times using cross country skis and a dog with a harness that allows the two of you to work in tandem to pull and move through the snow. For this type of activity you’ll need a special system for your dog called an Omnijore System. This system allows for a quick release leash in case things get messy so you don’t want to get your dog tangled up on your cross-country adventure. This is one of the most fun winter activities you can do with your dog, but before you head out on the trails, check out our blog with details on Skijoring with your dog to know the details of what you and your pup are getting into.
Don’t let the lack of warm weather drag your pup’s spirits down, and stop you for getting some much needed fresh air. Winter is the perfect season for adventures, so grab your pup and get out there for some bonding and bouts in the snow!