The most important ingredient to a happy snowshoeing dog versus one that has a miserable time is warmth…followed closely by being dry.
Smaller dogs aren’t able to generate as much of their own body heat as big dogs. Also, because smaller dogs are closer to the ground, the cold radiating up from the surface chills them.
To make sure Gretel and Chester stay cozy warm, they wear double-fleece jackets and a neck Koozie
To make sure your dog stays comfortable and has a good time, this is what you will need:
Finding the right outdoor jacket for your Dachshund can be a challenge. Look for these features when choosing an outdoor, active jacket for your dog:
- Synthetic or wool materials so it stays warm when it gets wet (unlike cotton).
- Doesn’t restrict movement or have potential for chafing but is not too loose or baggy. You don’t want a jacket that is too tight making it hard for your dog to breathe or giving them sore spots. When jackets get wet they may sag a little so an already baggy jacket can mean when it gets wet they might catch their feet on the extra material and trip. Hiking uphill versus on flat is different in that regard, They have to lift their feed higher.
- Can be washed easily. Outdoorsy little dogs tend to get their bellies muddy from the splash back from the ground. I almost always have to wash our jackets after a trip. I even have a couple so they can wear one on the trail while the other is in the washer.
- If you live in a wet climate, a waterproof jacket would be ideal. I have yet to find one that fits all of the must-have criteria above and fits a long, deep-chested weiner dog properly so we make due in this category. To be honest, we don’t do anything special to keep them dry. It is almost a lost cause. However, if we were to try, I would probably just put a thin, cheapie rain slicker on top of their jackets. They almost hate hiking in those more than they mind getting wet though.
A neck koozie can be seen as a luxury depending on your dog. Short-haired Dachshunds have thin hair and long necks. I discovered the miracle of the neck koozie this year and found that it is no longer an optional piece of dog clothing for us. They have been much warmer and happier snowshoeing since they have been wearing them.
Some of the jackets from VoyagerK9 I mentioned above come with a built in neck warmer. You can also make one yourself or buy one at Noodle and Friends.
Some kind of foot protection is a good idea but I admit we haven’t always used it. A dog’s pad that has been built up from regular walking on asphalt should do find on its own.
I tried a pair dog boots on Chester once and he didn’t like them. They fit his twisted Doxie feet weird. If your doxie, or small dog, is taller with straighter legs, boots may be a good option.
We just use a natural, protectant salve made for sled dogs – Musher’s Secret.
No matter whether you go au natural or with foot protection, you should check their feet often to clear away and snow or ice or to make sure they are not getting sore spots.
A collar can choke your dog and collapse their windpipe or, in the case of a Dachshund, put undue strain on their delicate spine. A harness also allows you to properly support your dog if they get too close to the edge of a trail or accidentally slip.
We don’t use any fancy kind of harness. Any harness that fits your dog well and they don’t hate to wear will do.
A Non-retractable, 6-foot leash is the law on most trails and it allows for more control of your dog. Also, as mentioned above, the static leash can act as a safety line if they accidentally slip on the trail.
As with the harness, any non-retractable leash will do.
Staying hydrated is just as important for you and your dog in the cold as it is in the heat. Our favorite travel bowl is a collapsible silicone one.
Snacks and Treats
When your dog snowshoes, he/she burns twice as many calories as walking. Dogs can “hit the wall” just like people – they can reach a point where they just become exhausted and it becomes very trying to go on. Feeding them snacks along the way will help prevent that.
A Way to Carry Your Dog Out in an Emergency
Heading out in the winter requires that you be more prepared. In all the years I have been snowshoeing with my small dogs, I have only ever had an issue once or twice. However, it is always a possibility that they get too tired, their paws get sore from walking on the snow or they just refuse to go any farther for some reason. I always carry a REI Flash 18 pack with us in case we have to carry them out.
(If you have a bigger dog. a small bed sheet you can use like a stretcher (if there are at least two people) would work)
Something for Your Dog to Stand on During Breaks
When small dogs stop, they can get cold easily. Standing on snow while not moving can essentially suck the heat right out through their feet. Giving them a barrier between their feet and the snow helps them to stay warm. We recommend the cozy Highlands Dog Bed but a small foam pad is good or towel will work in a pinch
You should always pick up poo to protect the environment and so no one steps in it. Burying it in the snow where there are no microbes to break it down, and the snow acts like a freezer preserving it until the spring, is not a viable option.
A Small Carabiner for Securing Your Dog When You Stop
A small carabiner clipped to the handle of your dog’s leash will be a great help when you need to secure your dog to something during breaks. In the snow it is harder to find something to tie their leash to. Most of the sticks sticking out of the snow are thin and wimpy.
It is not safe to get next too close to a big tree in the snow. The branches can keep snow from falling near the tree trunk, creating what is called a “tree well”. These have been known to trap and kill people. I will elaborate more on this later but for now, just take my word for it and stay away.
I clip a small carabineer to the handle of each leash. I use those to tether them to my pack when we stop. Yes, they can pull it and try to run but I guarantee you they won’t get very far 🙂 If you can find a small tree to tie them to, you can wrap the leash around it and clip the carabiner onto the leash, thus creating a secure loop without making a knot.
This is what we see as essentials for a safe and comfortable snowshoeing adventure with your small dog. Is there anything else that you would put on this list?