Best Tips for Winter Hiking with Dogs

People winter hiking with dogs in the mountains
The Sea to Sky Corridor is a beautiful, diverse landscape with rugged terrain and oftentimes unpredictable weather. Whether you're going on a day hike or multi-day backpacking trip, winter hiking with dogs can be a memorable and rewarding experience. But before heading out on a mountain adventure with your pawl this winter, it's important to put some time into trip planning, training, and knowing which essentials to take to ensure you both have a fun and safe experience. 

Trip planning

Planning an adventure with a dog | Hiking with dogs

Plan your travel route with your furry companion's abilities in mind
It's essential that your dog is physically fit to handle trail conditions. Puppies and senior dogs aren't fit to take on the world, especially in the winter. Know your dog's abilities and plan around that. Consult your vet to know what your dog is capable of before heading out on your adventure.
Choose a dog-friendly trail and know the rules
Research where you're hiking ahead of time so you can be sure dogs are allowed (Garibaldi Provincial Park, Joffre Lakes, and Rainbow Mountain for instance do not allow dogs) and what the leash law is.
Know the terrain and conditions
Research the hike and trail conditions itself to ensure you and your dog are ready for the excursion. Is there a hard-packed trail or is the terrain open with deep, powdery snow? Are there risks of avalanches? It's essential that you are both capable of handling the terrain and conditions.
Check the weather
Sometimes the weather conditions aren't ideal (too much snow, blizzard, too cold, etc) for your dog and probably better to leave them at home on those days.
Fill out a trip plan and a plan B
Along with a trip plan, have a shorter trail in mind as a backup plan in case that conditions are changing or you see your dog starting to look uncomfortable. Always turn back if you need to.


Person training dog in snow | Hiking with dogs

Obtain the knowledge and skills you both need before heading out. 
Physically prepare your dog for winter hiking

Make sure your dog is getting the right amount of exercise and is fit before heading out on a big hike. Start with smaller winter hikes and slowly increase the time for the next training hike. 

Know your dog's limits

Snow drifts and deep powder on the trail can cause exhaustion very quickly from jumping through the snow. Don't hesitate to modify your plans to accommodate your dog's abilities.

Help your dog acclimate to the weather

Some dog breeds are naturally equipped for long hike in the cold weather, but not all of them. Start by hiking in the cold around home before heading out to help your dog acclimate to the colder weather.

Practice obedience and trail etiquette

It's important to be able to maintain control of your dog at all times, on and off leash. Only bring your dog on the trails if they are well-trained and obedient. Be respectful of other hikers and remember that some may not like dogs as much as you do. Always clean up after your dog. Try to keep them from disturbing local scenery and wild animals.

Learn how to keep the trails pet friendly by following dog hiking etiquette.

Know how to monitor your dog's condition
  • Is your dog showing fatigue by panting hard, whining, or limping?
  • Does your dog constantly stops?
  • Is your dog shivering?
  • Are your dog's paws sore or tender to the touch? Are they chapped or scraped from the snow and ice?
  • If your dog has very cold paws, nose, ears, or tip of the tail, of if you see discolouration in those areas, it may be an early sign of frostbite.
  • When you notice your dog starting to feel uncomfortable, it's time to stop and head back.

Taking the Essentials

Ambassador Cooper wearing Little Pine upcycled puffy jacket | Hiking with dogs in winter

Make sure you have the proper gear and that your dog gets accustomed to the equipment before undertaking a long hike. 

  • Identification (up-to-date tag, GPS, microchip)
  • Navigation (sturdy leash, harness)
  • Visibility (beacon light for dog, high-visibility vest) 
  • Paw care (dog booties, pad salve) 
  • Hydration (water, collapsible bowl)
  • Nutrition (food, dog treats)
  • Sanitation (biodegradable bags, poo bag dispenser, dog pocket)
  • First-aid kit
  • Travel pad, sleeping bag or blanket 
  • Dog backpack

Also, don’t leave home without a first aid kit (for yourself) and the 10 Essentials. For more information on how to adventure safely outdoors, visit AdventureSmart.

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Essentials for winter hiking with dogs

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