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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

Prep His Paws
>> Trim. Fur between canines’ toe pads can pack with snowballs and make walking painful. Have your vet or groomer trim the fluff even with your dog’s pads before your trip. Resist the urge to trim on your own; vets have clippers that won’t cut his skin.
>> Grease. Lube paws to prevent skin cracks caused by cold, dry air. Use a wax-based paw protectant like Musher’s Secret ($15, 3 oz.; or a thin coating of petroleum jelly. The former may last several days, and one dose of Vaseline will protect five hours or more.
>> Boot up. Measure paw length and width to fit your dog for booties that protect feet against abrasive ice and snow buildup. Put them on your pup for short walks before your first hike, as he may need time to adjust. Between trips, check boots for wear, which could cause sores.
>> Wipe clean. Rinse paws after every winter hike. Dogs may ingest antifreeze or parking-lot salts while licking their feet clean.

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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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