Snowshoeing with Your Small Dog 101: Introduction – It’s Easy and Fun

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.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. My neighbor who lives about a mile away has 5 miniature dachshunds. They go out on our trails every single day. She and I have a deal that, if it snows more than a foot, I snowshoe straight toward her house and she comes straight toward my house. Her mini weiner dogs are amazing. They stay right behind her but, wow, are they ever grateful when they reach my tracks!!!!!

    By our mutual agreement, we get at least a 1 mile track of somewhat tracked snow for her little dogs and my labs on the 1st day after a big snow. She jokes that her “Littles” “high center” when the snow gets too deep and she has to pick them up to “save” them. They amaze me.

    1. That’s a great agreement! I can see all 5 Dachshunds dashing through the snow 🙂 It’s also great that you can get two whole miles of trail out of the deal.

      Chester is a low rider and he never gets “high centered” but they get tired fast blowing through deep, powdery snow. When it is deep and powdery they only make it a mile or so (one way).

  2. I haven’t gone snowshoeing for years, probably at least a decade. Which makes me sad as I used to love it. What good Canadian girl can call herself such if she doesn’t own a pair? Since I’ve only ever snowshoed on the old school variety, I admit I am baffled by the new equipment I’ve seen in stores. What should a newbie like me get for my first purchase? Where does one even begin?

    1. I am glad you asked Kristine. I have a full post planned for later this month covering that topic. It’s a little more than I can explain here but I promise I will take the mystery out of it for you 🙂

  3. Coordination is not one of my gifts and I’ve always been intimidated by snowshoeing, but you make it sound so easy. Are there places that will rent snowshoes, like they do with cross-country skis for those of us that would like to give it a try without a big investment?

    1. There are places you can rent them for sure. Maybe not every place you travel but probably the ones that have snow, snow parks and ski resorts. I will cover this topic in depth later this month.

  4. Finding a place to borrow snowshoes around here seems unlikely, but there is one state park that I think we might be able to rent them at. I’ve never tried it, but we love winter hikes. I’m still trying to get myself used to winter dressing, though. It’s been really warm here so far this winter and then we dropped by forty degrees over the weekend. Brr! I guess first we’ll have to get some snow!

    1. The first few times out in the winter are always hardest for us. We under dress because we are still in denial. Once we get properly bundled up with the right gear it becomes more comfortable and easier.

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    1. Thanks for asking! There are primarily only two types. The other differences are just bells and whistles. Both work…..just in different ways. I will be sure to tell you all about it in my post about selecting snowshoes in a couple of weeks.

  6. That was great fun to read and dream about. Here in Florida that’s all we can do when it comes to snow. I guess we’ll have to stick to swimming instruction at All Things Dog Blog!

    Thanks for stopping by Mutt Monday to link up this post. I’m sure plenty of my readers will find it helpful and entertaining. Happy tails!

    1. Great technique 🙂 Love the way the video was edited too. Wish we had the know-how to make videos like that.

  7. Sounds like fun. Slimdoggy Jack would probably fall through the snow although he does have such large feet that they kind of look like snowshoes!

  8. Sounds lots of fun BUT won’t be doing it in a hurry around our area I’m afraid….Nearest snow is 1000’s of miles away! Happy FitDogging

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