As the summer slowly comes to its end, people’s minds tend to turn towards thinking about Christmas and, naturally, winter times. However, every responsible dog owner also thinks about struggles that arise with snowy pavements. To ensure the winter hike with your dog runs smoothly, follow our tips!
1) Choose the right hike
a) Know your dog
To choose the proper safe hike, you have to consider your dog’s physical abilities. Hence, if your dog is not physically at its peak – meaning they are overweight, have problems with joints or muscle strength – take that into account when planning the trip. Moreover, during winter, dogs are not able to withstand as long trails as during summertime.
So if your four-legged friend cannot catch a breath on the same route in summer, it may be at least twice as hard for him during the winter season when paths are all slippery. Lastly, not all dog breeds respond the same to winter hikes. Short-haired breeds tend to get cold quickly, and short-legged may get stuck in the snow, while some breeds are simply built for such an environment.
b) Know your weather
It is advised not to bring your dog outside without any additional protection for longer than 15-20 minutes when the temperature is below zero. If the temperature is above freezing, you can take them for walks ranging from 30 to 45 minutes. However, while it is not a hot summer afternoon, do not forget to bring enough water for your dog! Snow is not a viable alternative.
2) Protect at all costs!
To ensure that your precious friend stays in perfect condition throughout and after your hike, follow these tips!
a) Sun shines even during winter!
While it is easy to forget, the sun shines even during winter, and it is essential to protect your dog from UV rays. While the sun may not be direct and the rays are not apparent, snow reflects UV rays, so if you do not want your dog to get a sunburn or eventually develop skin cancer, put on him some sunscreen.
Apply it to his nose, ears, around his lips, groin, and inner thighs. Basically, do not miss out on any spots sensitive to sunburn. Some dogs of lighter pigmentation may be more prone to it, so consider it before going out. The sunscreen should be applied about 20 minutes before heading out on a hike and reapplied every 4-6 hours, same as for humans.
As the title suggests, you should seek professional paw protection for your dog before going on a winter hike. The trail in winter is freezing and often contains salt or gravel to prevent people from slipping. For shorter tracks, consider the right balm for paws and nose so your dog’s paws and nose don’t get dry and crack. For longer trails, however, consider getting your dog booties. These prevent canine feet from getting dry and against rocky terrain or a snow build-up in between the pads.
c) Dressing up to the occasion!
Lastly, if you’re planning on going on a hike in extreme temperatures, booties and sunscreen may not be enough. In such cases, opt for waterproof and windproof jackets to fully protect your four-legged friend. Pro tip: Choose a bright colored coat to easily find your dog in the snow. Another option, especially for a bit shorter walks, is to bring a blanket. This way, if your dog gets colder, you may stop for a tea or hot chocolate and warm up your dog in the meantime.
Finally, it all comes down to your and your dog’s needs. Your dog may not be a fan of booties and can prefer having a balm on, or vice versa. On the other hand, you may prepare everything on this list, and your dog can still be shivering. Hence, if you see that your dog is cold no matter what, consider choosing short walks instead of long winter hikes in the mountains. After all, you know what’s the best and should prepare accordingly! Your dog will thank you!