Snowshoeing With Your Dog
Have you ever thought about snowshoeing? The snow is still here despite what the groundhog said, so you might as well enjoy it. You can still hit the trails, a snow-layered golf course or city park, or a closed canyon road, such as the one a few miles up Millcreek Canyon.
The cold is no excuse to stay home. Dress appropriately, and you’re good to go. Believe me, once you get moving, you’ll be comfortable and warm.
Fluffy is ready with her fur coat, but you can give her extra protection with a coat and booties.
Here are some tips to ensure you’re both ready to romp in the white stuff.
Layer, layer, layer: long johns, long sleeved shirt and pants, and a coat. Pockets of air will do the rest by trapping body heat.
For clothing, take some hints from ski/snowboarding clothes. Go with synthetic fibers for breathability and wicking moisture (i.e., sweat) from your body. Avoid cotton. Cotton holds moisture and stays wet. Don’t wear blue jeans; once they get wet, they stay wet.
Gloves or Mittens
Gloves allow more finger flexibility, nice when strapping on the snow shoes. Mittens are warmer because they trap body heat inside.
Take along a warm fitted hat that covers your ears. On a warmer day, a headband covering your ears will be adequate.
Unless you’re trekking on a popular snow-packed trail (where traction devices are sufficient), you’ll want snowshoes. Lightweight aluminum, narrow frames allow you to walk almost normally. Adjustable straps let you use boots or less bulky shoes. Spring-loaded suspension and crampons on the bottom with their springy prongs provide for traction and lift off.
Snowshoes are designed differently for the sexes (i.e., more tapered for women to accommodate their stride) and for different weight loads. When first snowshoeing, rent a pair before investing. Snowshoes generally run $100 and up.
Traction devices wrap around the bottom of your shoes, providing steel grips that press into snow or ice for added traction. Traction devices are useful for packed snow or intermittent patches of snow and slush. I use “Yak Trak” which are made of springy rubber with wound steel coils. There are other brands/variations.
Feet easily get cold. And wet. While you can get away with tennis shoes for a short excursion, I highly recommend insulated, waterproof boots that are at least ankle high.
If you don’t have ski pants, get leg gaiters. Gaiters connect to your boots and provide overlapping waterproof protection up to your knees.
When traipsing in the snow with Fluffy, consider getting her a set of booties. Think Iditarod. Booties for sled dogs are required equipment on account of ice, hard packed snow, and sharp rocks. Your dog will be subjected to the same, cutting her pads and making them bleed.
Look for waterproof booties with flexible rubber soles with tread patterns for traction. Some come with gaiters (“sleeves” which cover the lower leg) for added insulation and protection against the cold. Read reviews so you can buy with confidence.
Be sure to size the booties for best fit. Sizing depends on the manufacturer. Some base it on the width of the paw. Others on the length, from the front edge of the small pads to the back edge of the large pad. So, if ordering online, be sure to check out their sizing guidelines. If possible, I recommend trying on booties at a store for a good fit.
Coat or Sweater
For a short-haired dog, consider covering her with an outer layer to protect against the cold and wet. Take her to a couple of pet stores and outdoor recreation outfitters and try on coats before investing. You’ll want something comfortable, snug, and easy to put on.
Published in Pets in the City Magazine, March 2013 ()