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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

The Manual: Winterize Your Dog

Learn how to prepare your dog for cold temps and tricky terrain with this guide.

by: Kristy Holland and Rachel Zurer

Illustration by Supercorn
Illustration by Supercorn

Seek Proper Terrain
>> Use groomed or well-traveled trails. Cross-country ski or snowshoe trails are ideal for dogs—call ahead to see if they’re allowed—because packed tracks prevent your pooch from postholing. If you’d rather hike untracked areas, reduce your expected mileage by as much as half (to account for fatigue). Breaking trail is hard for a dog; train him to follow you.
>> Avoid hiking near frozen streams and lakes. If your dog wanders on to ice less than two inches thick, he could fall through into frigid water. Attempting a rescue puts you at risk, too.
>> Stay in class II terrain. “Dogs aren’t technical climbers,” says Berger. Avoid terrain with precipitous drops or inclines, which are more treacherous when covered with ice.
>> Leash him. If your dog doesn’t heel within arms reach, keep him leashed, especially in high-traffic snowmobile and skier areas, and in avy terrain where his roaming could trigger a slide.

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Corey T
Jan 10, 2012

I hike with my dog all the time, the longest hike he has endured is 43 miles from garden of the gods to lusk creek canyon in southern Illinois. And I gotta say I use mushers secret on his paws every hike hot or cold, I haven't used the boots on him yet, but I run with him a lot of asphalt and concrete so his pads are conditioned for rough terrain and he will still get nicks and cuts on his pads. He def needs a dog coat in the winter there is no shelter for him to get out of the cold, unless he goes in the tent and sleeps in the sleeping bag, but he likes to be by the fire too! So it's not bad to get some gear for your dog, especially their feet. Carrying a large dog back to the vehicle plus your other gear sounds dangerous and avoidable. If you love them you want them to be as comfortable as possible in the back woods. Your dog doesn't require much to be safe on the trail take care of them!

Marylyn D
Jan 10, 2012

To meanolddog. We have made our dogs pets. Their pads aren't concrete hard and they don't have layers of fat to protect them from the cold. So we have a responsibility to protect them from harm.

Jan 09, 2012

Gee I wonder how we dogs survived before all this marketing of dog gear came about..We must have suffered horribly in our fur coats and concret hard pads...Those poor Coyotes and Wolves that run about the forest everyday must be suffering a horrible life maybe we should start a Foundation for Cold dogs....And those poor Country dogs whose masters leave them out in the Kennel all winter maybe we should get PETA after them and those Alaskan sled dogs as well..Well I guess it just goes to show, like Metro Humans, Metro Dogs have special needs too....Lols

Jason W.
Jan 06, 2012

Be careful skiing with dogs, have seen several sliced dog tendons from sharp ski edges. Not good.


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