When the snow comes in winter, it can feel boring for some dogs that thrive on exercise. Hiking with your dog in the winter is a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and create memories together.
As with any hike, it’s best to hike prepared and plan ahead. Hiking in the winter requires a little more preparation when hiking with your dog.
I’ve gathered some best practices and tips for winter hiking with your dog
Tips for a Safe Winter Hike With Your Dog
Winter hikes can be so much fun, but they need a little extra planning. Some dog essentials for a safe winter hike are listed below.
Dog Hiking Essentials:
Thermal or waterproof blanket
Collapsible water bowl
First Aid Kit
Hand Warmers (optional)
Dog booties might seem like a waste of money, but they serve a purpose.
If your dog has long hair around the paws, snow can get stuck between the pads. Dog booties can protect their sensitive paws.
Before hiking, have your dog get used to wearing dog booties around the house. Once they tolerate them for short periods of time, take a walk around your neighborhood. Slowly expand the time your dog wears booties so they’ll get used to them before it’s time to hike.
This is a great article on dog booties for winter, from AKC.
Make a fashion statement AND keep your dog warm! Again, this may seem like a waste of money at first, but it serves a purpose.
If your dog doesn’t have a thick coat of fur to protect them, they’re at a higher risk for hypothermia and frostbite. We don't want that!
Short-haired dogs need extra protection from the cold, like a thermal jacket. If you would be cold outside, chances are that your short-haired dog would be too. So dress them as warmly, as you would dress.
One thing to note about jackets: make sure the coat is snug around their chest. If it drags to the ground, it could get wet, freeze and defeat the purpose of having it.
It’s important to take breaks when hiking with your dog. Your dog will need to sit for these short breaks, and sitting on the cold ground won’t cut it.
Bring a thermal or waterproof blanket your dog can sit on something that isn’t going to make them colder.
Water and Collapsible Water Bowls
For humans and pets, I always suggest carrying water close to your body, so it doesn’t freeze. If you can’t do this, consider buying a pair of disposable hand warmers. You can put the hand warmers into your bag to keep water and treats from freezing.
Collapsible water bowls are convenient for hikes. They don’t take up a lot of space, and they’re very lightweight.
Bring treats that will stay soft and easy to chew if temperatures drop. Keep the treats close to your body or use a hand warmer to avoid freezing. By doing this, you will ensure your dog can have treats throughout the hike.
Waste Bags and First Aid Kit
Last, but not least, every hike with a dog should include waste bags and a first aid kit. You can find pet first aid kits on Amazon or any local pet supply store.
Things to Watch For During Winter Hikes
Take cues from your dog while you’re hiking in the cold. Pay attention to cues they may give to indicate they're not having a good time.
Some signs of distress to watch for:
Your dog barks or whines
Your dog gets anxious or starts tugging on the leash
Your dog has cold paws, ears, nose, or tip of its tail.
Your dog starts shivering
Your dog wants to sit and stop hiking
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to turn around and call it a day.
When NOT to Hike With Your Dog
Young puppies and older dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures very well. If your dog is on the younger or older end of their age bracket, it might be best to skip a winter hike for now. Playing in the snow for short bursts of time might be better for dogs in these age groups.
Before You Hike Together
Try to take a short walk in the snow or a very short hike before hitting a longer trail. This will give you a better idea of how well your dog can handle the cold.
Pet-Friendly Hiking Trails near Denver Colorado
These are some trails that are pet-friendly and within 30 minutes of Denver.
South Valley Park in Littleton - Easy ½ to 3 mile hike
White Ranch Sunset Loop - Moderate 2 mile loop
Elk Meadow Park - Easy 2.6 mile loop trail
Davis Ponds Loop at Ataunton - Easy 2 mile loop hike
Bear Creek Trail - Easy 2 mile hike
Giving Back to the Denver Animal Shelter
I talked about the pet calendar more in my last post that you can read here.
The proceeds benefit the Denver Animal Shelter, a cause that is very important to me. I hope you'll take a look at the calendar, and help support our local community as well.
Want more tips? Take a look at some of the other blogs I have listed below!