Whether we’re cross-country skiing, splitboarding or snowshoeing, we Coloradans love our winter adventures. And we love taking our furry friends with us! But there’s a lot to know before you bring your dog into the woods in the winter. Here are some tips from C-RAD dog handlers. Feel free to comment with your own tips!
*This post is not meant to provide avalanche or backcountry safety tips for humans. This is purely to help keep your dog happy so she can enjoy winter mountain adventures with you!
Getting Out There
Something we can’t emphasize enough is knowing how to read your dog and not pushing her abilities in the backcountry. It’s important to know what it looks like when your dog is too tired and needs a break or needs to call it a day. Recreating in the woods means you’re often far from assistance, and carrying your dog out of the backcountry on skis or snowshoes will make for a difficult mission. Keep it fun for your dog and fun for you! Here are our suggestions.
- Start small on an easy backcountry trail where there are few distractions and no consequences for you or your dog.
- Expose your dog to unfamiliar gear before heading out so she’s not surprised by new and strange equipment.
- Work on new commands that are appropriate for the backcountry. As a skier, you might find that your dog gets too close to your ski edges, for example, so you could try working with your dog to find a new command such as “back” that works to keep her at a pole-length distance.
- Think about the backcountry from your dog’s perspective and don’t make assumptions. Deep snow, unfamiliar terrain and new situations can trigger unforeseen reactions from your dog. Be patient and be ready to remove your dog from the situation if needed.
You know your dog best. We’ve found the following gear to be great for our dogs, but some dogs don’t like booties, for example, and dogs with heavy fur will likely not need a jacket. Think about your dog’s individual needs when finding the right backcountry gear, and always be ready for the unexpected. Here are some of our favorite pieces of dog gear.
- Musher’s Secret helps prevent snowballs in paws and fur, especially if your dog doesn’t like wearing booties – a true miracle product for the backcountry!
- Booties can help keep your dog’s paws warm and snowball-free
- A jacket can help retain heat for smaller dogs and dogs with thin fur, and are great to have for longer missions and changing weather conditions
- Harness with a handle so you can pick your dog up in deep snow and are able to leash them easily when necessary; many harnesses come with pockets so you can stash treats and poo bags. Bonus!
- Basic sustenance, such as high-protein, high-energy treats
- Collapsible water bowl and extra water
- Basic first-aid kit that includes a compression bandage for a cut paw and either plastic baggies or booties to keep a paw injury dry
- Extra layer or a lightweight pad to keep your dog off the cold snow surface during snack breaks, if she’s getting too cold or in case she gets injured
Most importantly, enjoy the time well-spent in the outdoors with your furry friends!