With the temperatures dropping and a layer of snow coating the ground, most people choose to snuggle up with their favourite cozy blanket indoors. However, the winter weather doesn’t mean that you need to hibernate. Be prepared to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of winter with your best friend by your side with this winter hiking gear for dogs!
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While I wouldn’t claim that winter is my favourite season, there is a unique peace, calm and beauty this time of year.
Just look out your window first thing in the morning after a major snowfall, before it has all been disturbed and you will see what I mean!
It’s that calm serenity that we need more than ever as we will deal with the stress of the crazy times that we’re living in.
One of the biggest ‘self-care’ choices that we have made in our home is to include regular hikes into our schedule, exploring nearby parks and trails.
We’re lucky to live in Ontario, surrounded by stunning beauty as far as the eye can see.
With lockdown measures and travel restrictions in place, there has been a large increase in the number of people embracing outdoor travel, camping, and hiking for the first time.
If you’re new to the hiking world, welcome!
The first step to planning your first big adventure is to ensure that you are prepared with all of the gear necessary to keep both you and your furry friend safe.
This is particularly true during the winter months with the additional risks associated with the extreme cold.
Whether you’re planning to start off with a small local trail or looking to take the next step in your outdoor travel journey with a more challenging trail, today’s post is for you!
As avid outdoor travellers, my husband and I love spending as much time outdoors as possible, always with our pups by our side (and occasionally our cats).
To do this safely, we have invested in high-quality, reliable winter hiking gear for dogs. The great news? There are some incredible options on the market!
Your needs will differ slightly depending on the size and breed of your dog. For example, a husky or malamute can handle the outdoor temperatures better than a short-haired dog like a boxer.
For this reason, it is important to pay attention to your dog and follow his/her lead.
We have 2 larger dogs with longer coats, however, Daviana has a coat that is MUCH better suited for the winter cold. Therefore, we have to take additional precautions for Indiana on even the shortest winter hiking trips.
If you ever notice that your dog appears to be struggling or showing signs of discomfort, take steps immediately to address the situation! At the end of the day, the health and safety are priority #1!
Related: ‘Must-Have Camping Gear for Dogs‘
Check Out This Must-Have Winter Hiking Gear for Dogs
The first thing that you should ensure is in order for any trip, not just during the colder months, is that your dog is sporting proper identification.
This includes not only checking to make sure that your dog has easy to read identification, but also that the information is accurate and up to date.
Even if your dog is microchipped, I recommend that you consider using one of these options.
Why? If for any reason your dog does get loose, having easy to read identification on your dog will allow anyone who finds your dog to contact you quickly and easily without having to go through the steps of having a microchip read.
In saying this, I am not discouraging the use of microchips. Comparing the pros/cons of microchips is a discussion for another day (both of our dogs ARE microchipped).
However, if there is anything that I can do to make it easier to bring our dogs home in an emergency, that is more than worth it to me!
If you are worried that your dog’s tag may not stay on (we had one family pet that somehow removed hang tags all the time), you may want to consider a collar with the ID plate riveted on or even a custom embroidered collar.
Remember, this isn’t the collar you are going to use to walk your dog as a replacement for their harness. It’s simply an option for identification.
Dog First Aid Kit
Another ‘must-have’ item regardless of the size or breed of your dog is a dog-specific first aid kit.
Many newer dog owners don’t realize that your standard human first aid kit doesn’t contain everything that you may need in the event of an emergency with your dog.
The good news? Creating your own DIY dog first aid kit is as easy as picking up the necessary supplies!
If you are pressed for time, you can also purchase ready-made dog first aid kits with everything you need for your next adventure including the 49-piece Kurgo Harness Compatible First Aid Kit, designed to easily hook right onto your dog’s harness.
During the winter months, the sun goes down much earlier.
Even if you plan your hike during the daylight hours, you want to be prepared in the event of unforeseen challenges or complications.
As the owner of a dark-coated dog, I can’t stress how much of a difference this can make!
Not only will a light help you (or others) to find your dog if they are running lose, but there are also additional risks to consider.
The presence of a light will help drivers to see your dog if he/she is on a roadway or in a parking lot.
Further still, it will make it easier to identify your dog as a pet instead of a wild animal.
Insulated Water Bottle
One of the most overlooked concerns when heading out for a winter hiking trip is the need to maintain proper hydration.
An insulated water bottle is a necessary item for any winter hiking trip with or without your dog.
Hiking through the snow requires more effort than it would to hike the same trail in clear conditions, adding to your hydration needs.
Furthermore, the dry winter air is also dehydrating.
When we are packing up for a winter hike, we pack as much (or more) water as we would for our summer adventures.
You want to select a water bottle with proper insultation to help prevent it from freezing in the winter temperatures.
Alternatively, you could pack your water bottle into your pack wrapped in something to insulate it.
Unfortunately, the second option would mean that it’s harder to access your water when you want to take a drink and may even impact your water consumption negatively.
This is why I highly recommend purchasing an insulated bottle for your hiking needs.
High-Quality, Protein-Packed Snacks
If you’ve been researching hiking kit lists, you’ve likely noticed that most hikers recommend bringing high-quality snacks to help keep your energy up on bigger hikes.
The same is true when planning for your dog.
You want to select a treat that’s highly nutritious, easy to eat on the go (smaller bite-sized treats work best) and, of course, a flavour that your dog loves!
Dog Booties /Dog Paw Wax
No list of winter camping gear for dogs is complete without mentioning the importance of paw care for your dog.
As you get ready to head out in the winter cold, you likely take the time to put on warm socks and a pair of winter boots.
But what about your dog?
Not only is it uncomfortable for many dogs to walk through the cold snow (there are, of course, those breeds that are quite comfortable with it), but they also protect your dog against additional risks.
A properly fitting pair of dog boots will protect your dog against snow, ice, road salts and ice-melt products.
Are you planning on hiking with an older pup? After all, being a senior doesn’t mean that they don’t still enjoy the great outdoors!
Icy surfaces can quickly cause unnecessary falls and injuries.
Select winter-specific dog boots with additional grip to improve their traction.
If your dog refuses to wear booties, you’re not alone!
Unless your dog has been conditioned to allow something on their feet, the idea of wearing booties may not rank high on their list of fun things to do.
Another great option to consider is using a paw protection wax such as Musher’s Secret.
These products were designed with dog sled teams in mind, creating a protective barrier against snow and salt during the winter months.
Winter Dog Jacket
Another important investment for anyone hiking with a dog that isn’t suited for the winter cold is a winter dog jacket.
You want to select a jacket that not only provides insulation against the chilly temperatures, but also one that is waterproof or water resistant.
A regular fleece or wool dog sweater will get wet and a wet sweater will add to the problem instead of helping. Just think back to the last time that you got your gloves wet while outdoors in the winter.
Winter jackets are a must-have item for many dogs, including:
- Short-coated dogs
- Dogs with coats that lack insulation
- Young puppies
- Senior dogs
- Dogs that are ill or living with health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, etc.
- Dogs with any condition impacting their immune system
- Dogs recovering from an injury or whose hair growth has been impaired by an injury or illness
Contrary to popular belief, winter jackets are just designed for a select few vulnerable breeds!
Make sure that you take the time to properly measure and fit your dog when purchasing a jacket.
A properly fitting winter dog jacket should cover their neck, sides, and belly. It should be snug, to prevent cold air from getting under the jacket, but not too tight.
Avid winter adventure lovers such as skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers will tell you that the risks of snow blindness are a very real concern!
Snow blindness refers to the impact of the sun’s UV rays on the eyes during the winter months.
Most people associate the need for UV protection with the summer sun. However, snow is surprisingly reflective, bombarding us with UV rays both from above and off the surface below.
The best way to prevent this dangerous and often painful condition is to wear snow goggles that are designed to block UV rays.
But what about your dog?
You may be surprised to learn that there are dog goggles that were created with this risk in mind!
These goggles are uniquely created with adjustable straps to stay firmly in place, protecting your dog’s eyes from harmful UV rays.
At the same time, they will also keep your dog safe from unexpected injuries caused by stray branches or other objects when walking through the bush.
Packable Dog Blanket
Finally, I recommend adding a waterproof blanket to your pack when you head out.
During your hike, this will provide you with a dry, comfortable place to sit down and take a break if you want to enjoy the quiet beauty of the environment around you.
This is especially important if you are hiking with a pup that may need regular breaks, such as a senior dog.
It’s also incredibly useful if you’re taking longer trips that include stopping to enjoy a meal on the trail.
Do you enjoy winter hiking with your dog? If so, what items make your list of must-have winter hiking gear for dogs?
I invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below!