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Winter Dog Adventure Essentials

Winter Dog Adventure Essentials

Winter adds a whole new layer of fun for you and your adventure seeking pup.


From snow shoeing to making turns on some fresh powder, there are dog friendly ski resorts and back country trails just waiting for you to carve out some new memories with your furry best buddy. No outdoor adventure is free of inherent risks though.

Here are 5 Winter Dog Essentials you should always have on the ready to keep your pup safe and happy on the trail.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast version of this blog, just click play!

  1. Good Recall


Who doesn’t love to see the happy wagging tail of their dog running off leash down a trail? (Obviously in a place where that’s allowed.) But, off leash play time can be pretty dangerous not only for your dog but for you and others if they have no recall training. Teaching your dog excellent voice command skills is an absolute necessity in order to enjoy the outdoors with your pup and applies year round. It keeps them, you, and others safe and when we’re talking about winter travel, it plays a huge role in avalanche safety. An excited dog bounding across an unstable slope can trigger a deadly slide. It’s one of the most important parts of being a responsible pet parent that adventures with their dog and can mean the difference between a really great day outside or a tragic one. Winter terrain has some unique risks associated with it that need to be considered. Snow can hide all sorts of dangers for you both, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory; deep snow drifts, fallen trees, tree wells, snow covered thin ice over a lake, unstable slabs that can turn into an avalanche, and of course the effects of a cold, wet, sometimes windy, environment. Being confident that your dog responds to voice command is an invaluable and responsible way to adventure with less stress. If you’re in an area that doesn’t allow off leash roaming or if your dog isn’t quite ready for the off leash life, check out some of Ruff Wear’s gear that handles all the adventures like a champ.

2. Keep them warm, dry, and protect their paws


Some breeds are definitely more adept at harsh winter conditions for sure but, even the hardiest of the bunch still require some extra protection sometimes. Yes. They have fur but, that does not make them immune to the effects of cold, wet, weather. Even if your pup doesn’t necessarily fall into the “snow dog” category, a little knowledge, preparation and the right gear can make keep them safe and having a blast in the winter months.

Frostbite on the paws, tail, tips of the ears, and other sensitive body parts can and does happen. Even medical issues play a role in their susceptibility. Dog’s with heart disease or diabetes are more prone to frostbite due to compromised circulation so, talk to your vet about any additional precautions you should take. Also, be wary of urban environments where salt or ice melt is used on sidewalks or roads as these can be pretty damaging and painful to your pup’s paws. It’s a good idea to rinse your dog’s feet in some warm water when returning home from a walk.


Frostbite and hypothermia can happen right in your own backyard if you’re not prepared and paying attention.

A waterproof, breathable, insulating jacket and a set of all terrain, water proof boots that provide traction should definitely be in your dogs gear cadre. Adding a weather proof insulated pad for them to rest on when you take breaks keeps them off the cold snow pack. Hurtta, based out of Finland, has a pretty impressive line up of breed specific jackets that rival our human versions and of course the trail tested gear from Ruff Wear typically doesn’t disappoint either. 

Musher’s Secret is a great alternative for the dog that thinks boots are of the devil. This all natural wax provides a breathable, protective barrier against snow and ice and won’t stain any cloth/fabric type surfaces such as the seats in your car, carpet, or clothes. It’s a must have in your first aid kit.

Want a chance to win a 7 oz. tub of Musher’s Secret for your pup?

Entry form is at the bottom of this post….but keep reading. This is some good info that your dog would like you to have.


3. Hydrate and Energize


Food and water are essential for maintaining energy levels and regulating body temperature. Make sure you bring a collapsible bowl, fresh water, and high energy treats that will fuel them throughout the day. Even though it’s cold, consuming water is essential for your dog. Eating snow will not satisfy their water needs and it only contributes to the physiological demands of regulating body temp. Choose snacks that will contribute to their overall energy. Bounding through snow requires a lot of effort! Zukes Super Food Blend with Bold Berries are some of my favorites to bring along but, make sure you try different snack options at home rather than introduce new foods on the trail. 

4. Know their limits and capabilities


Just like us, dogs have attributes that will determine what they’re capable of on any adventure. If your dog isn’t use to snowy hikes, ease them into it with short distances close to home. Take their comfort and fitness level into consideration and slowly help them build endurance.

Do they suffer from hip pain? Bounding through deep snow might be fun for a minute or two but too much of it is exhausting and can even be uncomfortable or painful if they have achy joints.

Making sure they’re wearing a good harness with a handle is important as well. Should your pup find themselves in snow that’s just too deep and they need your help, or they need help walking in the event they get injured, that handle on a well made harness can make quite a difference in your ability to get them to safety. You can check out some harnesses by Ruff Wear here. Do they have any medical conditions? Dogs with heart conditions need to be careful not to overtax themselves. Are they a brand new puppy or a wise and slower old senior? How well do they normally tolerate the cold or is it something they’re even used to? We have this misconception that dogs are ready for any adventure right out of the gate and while there is some truth to their innate wild, there are still many things that they rely on us for to keep them safe. Some prefer a simple adventure to the refrigerator versus an ambitious summit. If your dog is the super athletic type and just can’t get enough of it all, blaze the trails with  them but maintain a constant awareness of how they’re feeling. It can sometimes be difficult to catch warning signs with an eager and excited dog. Be mindful of shivering, their body language and energy levels, and check the pads of their feet especially if they’re not wearing boots. Basically, be the parent and pay attention. 

5. Carry a first aid kit & know How to Use it


Accidents happen even on the most well planned outings and we typically don’t expect them. Being prepared with the right medical supplies in your first aid kit and knowing how to use them is critical to managing everything from little mishaps to full blown emergencies. Cuts, broken legs, hypothermia…all of these are very real issues that you never want your best friend to experience but knowing how to help them when they need you the most is the ultimate way to love them. Prevention is key. Know how to recognize the signs and symptoms that your dog might be in trouble and always have an exit plan. If they are on medication, make sure you pack some of it in, in the event you end up being out later than you anticipated. Have the name, number, and address of the nearest 24 hr veterinary emergency clinic in your first aid kit and your phone.  Locate it on the map before you even head out. Minutes wasted having to google this information can be a big deal and possibly not even an option if your cell phone has no reception or the batteries die. Think proactively. 

This list is just a brief overview of important things to consider before heading out for some seriously epic winter fun with your dog. Know your dog. Know the terrain Be prepared.

A well planned adventure can make some of your most favorite memories with your four legged best friend. 


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You keep them safe. They’ll keep you wild.