If you live in a cold climate, like I do, it can often seem impossible to go outside during the winter months. But, your dog doesn’t go into hibernation when it snows, and he’ll still need his exercise in the winter months. Being prepared is the key to not only surviving but truly enjoying winter.
There’s nothing better than seeing a dog in the snow. They slip, slide, and pounce their way through the snow piles. It’s an absolute pleasure to witness. If you refuse to get your butt outside in the winter, then you’re missing out on this:
Why Winter Hiking is Good for Dogs
Enjoyment is not the only benefit of winter hiking with your dog. There are an array of health and emotional advantages to hiking in the winter that will have you putting on your hat and mitts and hitting the trail.
Winter hiking provides wonderful exercise during a time of year that is known for being quieter. The fluffy snow will be more difficult for your dog to run and jump through, so he will be working a different set of muscles and, with any luck, will get tired quicker.
Winter offers a whole new set of stimulation for a dog. There are new sights and smells, and many new things to explore in the outdoors. Mental stimulation is just as important for dog a dog’s well-being as physical stimulation is, and the new winter environment will offer that to them.
Bones and Joints
For dogs that are struggling with aches and pains, the winter months are a Godsend. The chilly temperatures will reduce inflammation in the bones and joints, making your dog more willing to get out, explore, and feel great.
How to Prep For your Winter Hike
Pick a Good Trail
Picking a good trail is key to having a great winter hike with your dog. If heavy snow is covering the ground it can be hard to see dips and divets in the terrain, so investigate that before arriving. You want to make sure that you pick a trail that is safe for both yourself and your dog.
If the snow in your area is powdery your dog will likely sink into it, and will exhaust quicker. Depending on how much energy your dog has, this could be an advantage or a disadvantage. In order to conserve your dog’s energy, try to pick a trail with packed snow, as it will be easier for both you and your dog to walk on, which means you’ll have enough energy left over to complete the trail.
Bring a First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is important for both yourself and your dog, especially if you’re hiking somewhere that’s more secluded. A dog first aid kit is similar to humans, with some added features. If you want to know what’s in my dog first aid kit click here.
In addition to carrying a first aid kit, make sure that you’re versed in the signs of hypothermia. Our dogs can’t always tell us when they’re feeling something, so it’s important to know the signs before it becomes an issue.
To learn more about the signs of dog hypothermia, watch this short video:
Provide Warmth with a Jacket and Booties
Unless your dog is a Northern breed, like a husky, it will likely feel the cold. For a dog that is a little bit more sensitive, you can buy jackets now in all different sizes and colors that are designed to keep your pup warm in the winter months.
Bring Hand Warmers
This is an amazing trick that I learned when I was a professional dog walker-always bring hand and feet warmers. If you have a dog you’ll know that they’re feet can get cold, and when they do they will lift the paws up off the ground and be unable to continue on the walk. When this happens I bring hand warmers to press against my dog’s paws to warm them up faster. These hand warmers typically last for multiple hours, so when your dog continues onward you can use the hand warmers yourself to warm up.
Hydration and Snack
Due to the fact that it’s more difficult to run and jump in the snow than it is in the grass, your dog will be using up more energy on your winter hike than they would in the summer. If you’re going for a long hike you may need to bring some snacks for your dog to munch on in order to regain some of that lost energy. Always bring water for your dog to rehydrate.
Check for Snow Clumps
Snow tends to clump together and stick to a dog’s fur very easily. While this isn’t a life-threatening thing, it can be heavy and uncomfortable for our dog. Throughout the walk, continually check your dog’s fur and remove any clumps of snow that are sticking to the fur and between the paws.
Django’s Story: Rescue Dog’s First Snow
I rescued Django from Israel, so his first Canadian winter was interesting, to say the least. As far as I know, he had never seen snow or been deep in the cold, and his reaction to it makes me smile even to this day.
The first time that I opened the front door after the first big snow he stopped dead in his tracks, unsure of if he should continue on out the door. He picked up his feet and walked slower. Before long he was running around in the snow, slipping and sliding like a person infatuated by freedom.
He has been surprisingly unphased by the cold and instead chooses to embrace it. He absolutely hates wearing booties and a coat, and instead opts into running, undisturbed. He is the perfect hiking buddy, in any season, and for that I am grateful.