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Everything You Need to Know on How to Snowshoe with a Dog

 In Outdoor Dog, Skills, Snow Skills, snowshoeing, Winter

Snowy trails are best enjoyed with a four-legged friend. Winter hiking and snowshoeing with a dog take a few extra considerations, but it’s a great way to get out an explore a wintery wonderland. Before you hit the trails, prepare you and your four-legged friend with these wintery tips.

What to Pack

Just like the 10 Essentials for us, dogs have essential items too. In the winter this means you’ll need a couple of extra items. Whether you carry it or your dog carries it is up to you. Nina is older (about 11 years old) so we retired her doggy pack a couple of years ago.

winter hiking with a dog

Musher’s Secret

This stuff is a MUST HAVE for dog paw protection in the outdoors. It really doesn’t matter the season. Be sure to dip their paws in it to avoid having snowball up on their feet. You can even apply it on their legs and undercarriage to prevent icicles and snow from building up on their fur.

Emergency Shelter

You shouldn’t venture into the backcountry in the winter without some type of emergency shelter. I carry the Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy by SOL. It’s compact, light doesn’t break the bank, and would be a lifesaver if something were to happen. Emergencies are no fun for anyone. However, you’ll not only need to account for yourself but your furry pal as well. If I had to, the two of us could squeeze into my bivvy. When picking a bivvy, make sure it’ll have enough room for you and your dog to stay warm. In an emergency, you’ll be thankful for each other’s body heat.


Extra Layers

Similar to people dogs need extra layers too. I recently purchased a dog jacket specifically for snow travel for Nina. I actually never thought I would ever purchase a jacket for my dog, but after watching her trudge through snow up to her chest in 40 mph winds with blowing snow I invested in a little protection. She uses the Roughwear Cloud Chaser. She naturally loves the cold so the Roughwear Powder Hound would be too warm for her. If your dog has shorter hair or problems with the cold, definitely invest in the heavier jacket.

snowshoeing with a dog - Roughwear Cloud Chaser


Function over fashion rules for snowshoeing with a dog. Look for something that is all synthetic (absolutely NO cotton), waterproof or snow shedding, and provides substantial undercarriage coverage. Roughwear offered just that. Think about what it would be like to drag your bare chest through the snow for several hours. BRRRRR! Doesn’t sound good, does it? Invest in a good jacket for your dog if you plan on being out all day and your dog isn’t a breed that is built for snow.

I also pack some toddler socks from my dog foot care kit, dog booties, and an extra layer for myself that can double as some protection for my dog should something happen. For example, I have an extra fleecy neck gator that I bring with me. Nina has used this to protect her ears and face when there’s lots of low blowing snow. If I tried to put it on her in the house, she’d protest, but she loves the warmth when we are out in the wind!

Bring Extra Food for Your Dog

You bring extra food for yourself, so don’t forget about your pooch. Similar to what you would pack, avoid foods that would freeze and would feel like chewing on a rock. This can crack teeth and cause one nasty vet bill or an infection. When you take a break, give your best friend some pup-friendly treats. You’re both working really hard out there!

snowshoeing with a dog - break

Other Items to consider

  • A dog-specific first aid kit. This should include gauze, athletic tape, a tick key (although you don’t need this in the winter), Pepto (dogs can have half doses of Pepto if they have a bad stomach), and Neosporin. Talk to your vet about any other items they would suggest for snowshoeing with a dog.
  • Always bring a water bowl and extra water. I’ve noticed Nina mostly just eats the snow, but it’s still a good idea to have water. Make sure your dog is staying hydrated.
  • A light for the collar – in case you are still heading back while it’s dark.
  • Booties. To be honest, I’m not a proponent of dog-specific shoes. They can ruin a dog’s feet and rip off their claws. Very painful. If you are going to be traveling over ice or hard packed snow in super cold temps, do as the dog sledders do and invest in some booties specific to sled dogs. It allows their feet to move more freely than shoes and they breathe, so your dog doesn’t overheat.
  • A leash. If your dog isn’t verbally very well trained or there are going to be lots of people around always leash your pet. Never let your dog get out ahead of you to where you can’t see them on the trail.

Teach Your Dog to Navigate in the Snow

Snowshoeing with a dog isn’t the same as hiking with a dog. Usually, when out and about Nina loves to break trail. However, in the snow things are different. Often times dogs are going to be post-holing or sinking into the snow making travel difficult. When you see this happening, make your furry pal walk behind you. This isn’t natural for most dogs and can take some getting used to. Nina quickly realized this was the path of least resistance and quickly learned to follow suit.

snowshoeing with a dog - bad conditions

The trickiest part is getting a dog to travel behind you is the fact that your feet are a little larger than normal. Dogs don’t understand the extension of shoes with a tail. Nina’s been kicked by the back end of my snowshoes plenty (unintentionally, obviously), but she figures out how to hang back pretty quick.

This tactic is great if you notice your dog is exhausted and you need to head back or if you’re the one making fresh tracks.

Keep an Eye on the Temperature

Unless your dog is a breed snow specific expect your 4-legged love to get cold before you. It’s a good idea to know what that point is before going out and reaching it. Make an extra effort to avoid being out after or before the sun is up. Shade and lack of sun quickly freeze the ground and this can burn your dog’s feet. If you find yourself in a tough situation, try re-applying Musher’s Secret or applying those awesome fleece booties. The last thing you want is your dog to have his or her paws freeze and suddenly walking becomes difficult.

snowshoe with a dog

For example, I know that when the temperature hits 15 degrees or lower, Nina is not going to last long outside. Walk your dog close to home in all sorts of winter conditions (even if you don’t want to) so you know how they do when the temperatures plummet.

Understand Your Pup’s Limits

Often times you are going to outlast your pup while snowshoeing with your dog. It’s very common. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out. Start with lower mileage, lesser difficulty trails. Slowly ramp up to something more difficult. Snow travel is more difficult and it’s significantly more difficult for your dog. Your dog doesn’t have snowshoes and a heavy layering system. They tire much quicker. Be aware and always be willing to turn back if your dog just isn’t feeling it.

Snowshoe with a dog - climbing boulders

My dog is 9 years old. She still summits mountains, stomps through snow, and climbs seemingly impossible boulders. She’s an active lady and loves to be out and about in the snow. But this doesn’t mean she’s always feeling it. I know when she’s had enough and we turn back.

Learn the warning signs for your dog and turn around if you notice them.

Getting out in the snow with your best 4-legged pal is endless fun! Do you have any tips for snowshoeing with a dog? What are your experiences? I’d love to hear them! Comment below.

Want more wintery tips and tricks? Check out these posts:

Tips and tricks for winter hiking with a dog. How to snowshoe with a dog. Getting outdoors in the winter with your dog. Tips and tricks for winter with a dog. #dog #travel #hiking #outdoors

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Showing 10 comments
  • Heather van der Ven

    This post is excellent! My boyfriend and I were just discussing that we should
    Get snowshoes for the backcountry in the winter. We bring our pups everywhere with us so this is definitely helpful. Thanks!

    • foxintheforest

      Hey Heather. I’m glad you liked the article. And hurray for adventure pups! They are the best. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about snowshoeing in general or being out with a dog. Cheers!

  • Mo Palepale

    Thanks for going above and beyond the snowshoeing tips by including our furry best friends! Great article and loved reading about the puppy frolicking! Haha.

  • Nicole Anderson

    I really enjoyed this article and it made me think about the needs of dogs on this type of activity. Also I had never thought of a dog-specific first aid kit before. I wonder if you can get/buy those already prepared.

    • foxintheforest

      Hi Nicole. You can definitely purchase these, but I am a DIY kind of gal. I’ve conglomerated mine over the years. A lot of stuff overlaps with a person first aid kit, so as long as you know what is where and what is safe for dogs you’re good to go! Always be sure to check with a vet first though.

  • Reply

    Really cute and helpful post. Also love your pictures and Nina is a beautiful dog. 🙂

    • foxintheforest

      Thanks! She’s not always the most photogenic – usually more interested in sniffing the ground than my camera. 🙂

  • Matt

    NIce post. Makes me miss my dog 🙁

  • Sarah

    Great post and advice! I’m still new to winter hiking and snowshoes, but would love to take my dog out this year. She loves snow.

    • foxintheforest

      I’m glad you’re getting into it! I love the winter season. It’s a little tougher sure, but the serenity and beauty of snowy environments makes it worth it! <3

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winter hiking and snowshoeing - windet storm