How to Snowshoe with Dogs

Whether you are a new dog owner or beginner to the sport of snowshoeing, you might be wondering how to plan a snowshoe trip with your dog for the first time. Follow this guide to have a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Dog hiking with a snowshoer in winter.

dog Safety tips for snowshoeing

Hypothermia and frostbite can be serious health hazards to pets that are exposed to winter conditions for extended periods of time. The main considerations for snowshoeing with a dog are to keep your pet warm, protect their paws, and ensure they are properly hydrated.

Paw Protection

Snow and ice can cause serious damage to the pads and claws on your dog’s paws and hinder proper traction. Take precaution to avoid the pads drying out or cracking, as even even traditional sled dogs such as the Alaskan and Siberian Husky are susceptible. Also, keep an eye on icy buildup between their toes to avoid frostbite exposure.

In order to combat this, on of the best solutions is to apply a paw balm or petroleum-based jelly prior to heading outdoors in winter. Products such as Musher’s Secret or Vaseline work and are recommended by the Animal Humane Society.

On very cold days, you might want to consider dog boots. Many dogs have trouble adapting to these, so be sure to test out that your pet is comfortable wearing and walking in the snow before embarking on too long of a journey.

Also, another tip in general is to avoid products and areas that are specifically intended to melt ice. Road salt and other chemicals used to melt ice can be dangerous and break down their padding or are harmful if accidentally ingested.

Body Warmth

Keeping your dog’s core internal temperature warm enough is critical during snowshoeing adventures. How much time your pet can stay outdoors during winter will depend on a variety of factors such as the age, weight, breed, and coat of your animal. Short-haired dogs in particular are vulnerable to the cold.

Clothing for dogs such as a winter vest or jacket will keep your dog warm. Retailers such as Ruffwear are good sources to find specialized dog apparel.

Also, pay special attention to areas that have minimal fur coverage such as earflaps and tail tips and which are most prone to frostbite, according to the American Kennel Club.

Another tip is to bring a foam pad or heated pad along so they can rest and stay insulated during water or snack breaks.

Finally, your dog might love jumping into fresh piles of deep powdery snow, but this can sap up energy much faster. Pay attention to make sure your pet can stay warm and keep up.

Watch for Signs of Hypothermia

Dogs are susceptible to hypothermia just like humans. Age, body fat, heart and kidney disease, and hypothyroidism are risk factors that can increase the chances of your dog catching hypothermia. Pale skin that appears white or blue and shivering symptoms are early signs of hypothermia.

What to do if you are on the trail and your dog is experiencing signs of hypothermia? According to Pet MD, the best solution is to wrap your dog in warm blankets, and either use a heating pad or warm water bottler wrapped around a towel to place against your dog’s abdomen.

If the dog’s temperature drops below 98°F, seek immediate veterinary care.

Hydration

While humans and canines might require less water in the winter than hiking on a hot sunny day, snowshoeing is still a strenuous exercise. One of the most common mistakes is not packing enough water for your furry friend, so remember to bring additional water and a bowl for your dog.

Staying hydrated on snowshoeing trips can be extra challenging since water can freeze. Hydration packs might even break or be damaged due to frozen water expansion. Therefore, we recommend bringing insulated water bottles or keeping water bottles tucked inside a jacket or backpack where they can be warmed from your body heat.

Snowshoe Trail Etiquette for Dogs

Trail Guides

if you are snowshoeing in public areas, check trail guides and signs to ensure that dogs are allowed on your planned route. Dogs may be prohibited only during certain dates or seasons so read the regulations.

Plan a Smart Route

Dogs are one factor that can slow your winter hiking pace, so be sure to take this account when planning how far to snowshoe on your trip. Remember to always be close enough to quickly reach your vehicle or indoor shelter in case of an emergency.

Share the Trail

There’s a strong likelihood that you might be sharing the winter trail with other snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and even snowmobiles. These individuals may be moving at high speeds so use caution when your animal is around.

Leashes

Your dog might be allowed to accompany your snowshoeing adventure, but could still be required to be leashed while on the trail. Even if, both from interacting with other humans and as a safety prevention against wild animals.

Hunting Season

Winter hikers that plan to travel to routes on public land that allow hunting should pay close attention to hunting regulations, especially hunting season dates. Dogs can scare away or chase game animals, but also be at risk if a hunter is not able to properly identify your pet.

Summary

Items to bring

  • Paw protection and/or dog boots
  • Winter apparel, including a jacket or coat
  • Extra water and snacks
  • Dog leash
  • Foam pad or heating pad
  • Thermometer

Tips to Remember

  • Check regulations, including trail guides and hunting season dates
  • Know the signs and basic treatment of hypothermia
  • Do not expose your dog to direct heat sources to warm up
  • Plan for shorter and slower trips to start
  • Be mindful of other winter recreation enthusiasts, especially skiers and snowmobilers