A couple of weeks ago we announced that were going to post a Snowshoeing with Your Small Dog 101 series. Yesterday we shared some of our favorite snowshoeing adventures to prove that small dogs really can snowshoe. Today is the kickoff of our series. We will publish a new post in this series each week on Monday until we run out of things you want to know
Snowshoeing is almost as easy as hiking. Ok, I will be honest, it IS more strenuous than hiking but just think of it as hiking a steeper version of the dry trail.
If you haven’t done much hiking you won’t know the difference. If you have, start out by planning snowshoe trips that are about half the distance of your normal summer hikes.
Really though, if you can walk you can showshoe. The learning curve is more like a bump and you can immediately advance from novice to intermediate snowshoer just by strapping on snowshoes and walking a few feet.
Snowshoeing is fun and easily accessible to many people and has become one of the fastest-growing winter sports. There has been a 60% increase in people who identify themselves as snowshoers in the last decade.
You might be wondering if you can take a small dog snowshoeing. We promise you that you can.
Snowshoes are designed to keep you floating on top of the snow. Unfortunately they don’t make snowshoes for dogs
If the snow is hard and crusty on top, your small, light dog isn’t likely to sink into the snow very far. If you are snowshoeing in soft snow though, the skinny legs of dogs can punch through. This can make it hard to walk, especially of you are a small, short dog.
There is a pretty easy solution though: Go to a place that has compacted snow your dog can more easily walk on.
You will find compacted snow on groomed cross country ski trails (However, DO NOT walk in the skiers tracks – stay off to the side) and on popular hiking trails where people have already beaten a path before you.
As a last resort, you can make your own. If your dog walks behind you on your snowshoes, you will have already packed some of the snow down for them. It works best if you have two people on snowshoes because one can stomp on the snow that they other’s footsteps didn’t compact.
To make sure you have an enjoyable trip, you will also need the right gear. You and your dog will need more layers of clothing to stay comfortable out in the cold. I will give you more details on this in a later post but you can get started in the right direction pretty easily.
Just put an extra thick jacket on your dog and do something to protect their feet. We bundle Chester and Gretel up in their double-fleece Cozy Hound jackets and put Musher’s Secret balm on their paws. You could use booties to protect your dog’s feet if they will wear them.
For you, the main rule is NO COTTON. A long time saying of search and rescue people is “cotton kills”. When cotton gets wet, it no longer keeps you warm and you are at risk of getting hypothermia. You might as well be wearing nothing at all. Stick to synthetic or wool tops, socks and snow pants/tights.
Even though snowshoeing is easy to learn, it can still seem intimidating to first-timers. The variety of equipment choices and technical mumbo-jumbo can be overwhelming.
The following posts in the Snowshoeing with Your Small Dog 101 series will cover subjects like conditioning, gear, safety and trail resources to help take the mystery out of it for you.
Please leave comments along the way so I know what information is most helpful to you. Next week I will tell you about what you should wear to stay comfortable and safe.