Hiking With Your Dog in Cold Weather: Essential Tips and Checklists

Despite the lower temperatures, it’s no surprise that your 4-legged friend wants to adventure outdoors. Just like you, they love breathing in that fresh, brisk air. However, before they step outside, remember it’s important to protect your furry friend from the cold temperatures, slippery ice and snow covered trails - just as you would yourself. 

Getting started: 

  • Check both on-the-ground (i.e. snow packed trails) and weather conditions to make sure you are prepared for what’s ahead.
  • Acclimate your dog to colder weather. Take them for a casual walk near your home and confirm they can manage the temperature and other seasonal conditions. 
  • Recognize your dog’s breed and how its furry (or not-so furry) coat will help protect them from the elements. Dogs with thicker, longer-hair typically enjoy and can bear colder temperatures while shorter-haired dogs typically don’t have the necessary undercoat to help regulate their body temp.

Where to go:

  • Find a trail you’re already familiar with and check the trail conditions.  Be considerate of existing snow and ice conditions. Dogs with shorter legs have a more challenging time getting through deep snow. In addition, icey spots can be slippery and unstable for their paws. 
  • Consider the distance you plan to go and expected time you’ll be outdoors. You and your furry friend will most likely be able to explore for a longer period of time when temperatures are above freezing. However, when they drop below freezing, most dog-owners recommend 10-15 minutes to be safe.  

What to bring: 

  • HYDRATION: Despite your dog’s occasional “snow” snack, be sure to bring water and a collapsible bowl to keep them hydrated. 
  • PAW AND BODY PROTECTION: Protect their paws from the snow and ice and add an extra layer by dressing your dog with booties and a waterproof and windproof jacket or vest.  Also consider an insulated blanket for your furry friend to take a break and warm-up. Unlike you, they aren’t always able to squat on a rock or tree stump when they need a break. 
  • EYE PROTECTION: Project their eyes with dog goggles. The sun can be just as bright and intense in the winter as it is in the summer. 
  • CLEAN-UP GEAR: Don’t forget the doggybags. Just because you may not be able to see it in the snow, doesn’t mean it should be left behind. Continue to pick-up after your dog just as you would on any other day.  
  • Other essentials include: proper identification (i.e. collar) with your contact information, leash, snacks and first aid. 

Be on the lookout:

  • Your dog can actually get frostbite and hypothermia. Be on the lookout for sure-tell signs for when it’s too cold for your furry friend. If your dog happens to display any of the following, it's probably best to get indoors. 
    • Noticeable shivering 
    • Continuous stopping for no reason
    • Increase in whining or barking for no reason
    • Discoloration and/or cold to the touch regarding their paws, nose, ears and tip of the tail.
  • Avoid partially frozen bodies of water. Despite the cold temperatures outside, ice can be unpredictable and melt or break quite easily.