5 Dog Safety Tips for Winter Hikes

5 Dog Safety Tips for Winter Hikes

September 20, 2017

Furry friends like exploring in the winter wilderness just as much as you do, so don't leave them at home. Instead, prepare Fido for a cold-weather hike. Grab the right gear, choose an appropriate trail, and keep these dog safety tips in mind as you make your way through the snow.


1. Gear Up Your Pup

When it comes to dog safety on a winter trail, there are only a few pieces of gear you really shouldn't go without. There are also a number of optional items you can use depending on your dog, the amount of snow and the length of the hike. Consider what your pup needs:

Easy-to-see leash: Keep your dog from disappearing into the snowy landscape with a bright orange, green or yellow leash.

Collapsible bowl: Use this for both food and water, or bring two. Your pup still needs to hydrate in the winter. Having to work harder to walk in the snow means they're burning more calories, too, so bring a few treats to help your pup stay energized.


  • Booties: These help your dog stay comfortable on a longer hike by keeping snow out from between their paws.
  • Flashing collar: If you want to let your pup off leash, these come in handy.
  • Jacket: If your dog gets cold easy, or has minimal fur, this will help keep them warm.

2. Choose a Dog-Friendly Trail

While this is important at all times of the year, in terms of dog safety, some winter trails just aren't appropriate for a furry hiker. Look for a trail that's dog-friendly all year round, and then check snow and weather conditions. Consider:

  • How much snow is on the trail; can your dog hike in deep snow?
  • How long is the hike; can your dog make it from start to finish in the cold?


3. Do a Practice Run

Once you choose the trail, do a practice run with Fido. While this isn't necessary, it's important in two specific situations:

  • If it's your dog first winter hike, take a long walk or stroll through a trail with snow. This will help Fido get used to trekking in the fluffy stuff for long periods of time.
  • If you choose a longer or more strenuous trail than your dog is used to, train them to complete it the same way you would train yourself.

4. Have a Back Up Plan

Like hiking with kids, you can never be sure how the hike will actually play out with a dog by your side. If your dog becomes too tired, uncomfortable or cold they may resist continuing. Come to the hike with:

  • A good turnaround point: Find an overlook, or a spot 1 to 2 miles from the start in case your pup seems hesitant to push on. 
  • An alternate trail: If you plan a long hike, look for an alternate trail that you can switch to if Fido is struggling.

5. Take Frequent Breaks

Frequent breaks along the trail allow you to check in with Fido and make sure he's able to continue on. When you stop, look for:

Snow between the paws: Dogs will lick the snow off their feet, consequently attracting more snow to stick. During your break, check the dog's paws and wipe them off if necessary.

Frozen furry chunks: Look for snow chunks on your dog's body, especially underneath where most contact with the snow is being made. 

If you want your dog's experience to be as great as yours, keep these dog safety tips in mind. When you come prepared and choose an appropriate trail, you can both enjoy the winter wilderness.