In the cooler months, crowded summer trails give way to crisp, peaceful solitude and snowshoeing with your dog is a great way to get out and enjoy the snowy winter conditions. I have been snowshoeing with my dogs for over 5 years and have learned a lot of things along the way. Here are some helpful tips for keeping you and your dog safe and comfortable during your own snowshoeing adventures.
Snowshoeing Tips for You
- Although you can just throw a pair of long underwear under your summer hiking pants, investing in a pair of windproof or waterproof pants will keep you more comfortable in the snow.
- Bring an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet so you can stay dry and warm. It's a good idea to bring an extra shirt for the same reason.
- A pair of gaiters will prevent snow from falling into the top of your boots and will greatly reduce the chance of your feet getting cold and wet.
- Layering your clothes is very important. You'll want to strip off layers when you are overheating and pile layers on when you stop for prolonged breaks.
- Bring a piece of foam or an inflatable seat to sit on when you stop for lunch, hot cocoa, or to take in an amazing view.
Tips for Your Dog
- A small dog should always wear a jacket. A larger dog may not need one. Whether they are wearing a jacket or not, feel your dog's body several times during your trip to make sure they are staying warm enough.
- If your dog wears a jacket make sure that it doesn't restrict movement, have potential for chafing, or for smaller dogs, is not so loose or baggy that their feet could get caught up in it.
- Use a dog-safe foot balm like Musher's Secret, or boots, to keep snow and ice from sticking to your dog's feet. Check their feet often for ice and snow buildup between their foot pads.
- If possible, hike with your dog behind the group. It's easier for your dog to walk in the packed snowshoe track so they won't tire out as quickly. Shorter and smaller dogs may only be able to go a couple of miles in deep snow before they get tired.
- Consider bringing a small blanket or pad for your dog to lay on when you stop for breaks. It will give their feet a break from the cold snow.
Snowshoe Safety Tips
- Make sure your dog is fit and healthy enough to make the trip. It's always best to start with short snowshoe trips and work your way up to longer ones.
- Always carry the 10 Essentials and bring the specific snowshoe trail directions and map if possible. Trails look different in the winter and often take alternate routes to avoid steep snow slopes.
- You and your dog should always wear synthetic or wool clothes so you will stay warm even if you get wet. Wet cotton does not insulate and can often develop a rough texture that can lead to chafing.
- Check with the National Avalanche Center, or a local avalanche center, before you go to assess the risk level. If the danger is extreme, don't go.
- Beware of tree wells. If you or your dog fall into the hole that can form around the trunks, there is a significant danger of getting trapped, developing hypothermia, or suffocating.
If you already hike, you probably have most of the clothing to start snowshoeing with your dog. You'll just need a pair of snowshoes to get started. These are the 3 main things you need to know when shopping:
- The total weight of you and your pack is what determines what length you need
- Buy snowshoes with pivot hinges so they don't flip snow on your dog or hit them in the face
- Get a more expensive snowshoe with a lot of teeth on the bottom if you will be hiking on steep or uneven terrain.
For More information on choosing snowshoes visit the Snowshoe Guide.
If you're new to snowshoeing, check out my Snowshoeing with your Dog 101 series or the Sierra Social Hub's list of Why You Should Try Snowshoeing.
Have fun out there this winter and be safe.
-Jessica lives in Seattle with her husband and two miniature Dachshunds, Chester and Gretel, and loves hiking, traveling, photography and animals. Her blog, You Did What With Your Weiner, features two adventurous wiener dogs breaking stereotypes, having fun, staying active and fighting pet obesity. She also tweets about those Dachshunds.