The creators of this website LOVE their dogs and winter hiking, and for those who choose to take their canine companion hiking in winter, there are certain special considerations that need to be thought of ahead of time. With that in mind, we wish to stress, that the health and safety of your dog should always come first, and should never be risked in pursuit of this “game”. As a responsible dog owner, make especially sure that your own personal safety is not at risk and take these additional tips into consideration for your peakdogger. Your dog’s life depends on it.
Be Prepared and Plan Ahead - Before heading out the door. Use as many of the resources that are available to you in order to be as prepared as possible, but always keep in mind, the weather and the trail conditions can change at a moment’s notice, and it will.
Know the Weather
Check the “up to date” forecast, for the specific location of your hike. Know the temperature range, and wind chill range throughout the day, at all elevation levels including the evenings lows in case you are unexpectedly still out after dark. Be aware of any incoming storms. You need to be confident that your dog will be comfortable and safe in the day’s predicted weather. For up to date temperature and wind speeds at elevations, click here: http://adds.aviationweather.noaa.gov/winds/
Plan Your Route – In Relation to the Predicted Weather
Make sure your planned route is safe and appropriate for the predicted weather and wind forecast. If the planned route has areas of exposure or areas above tree-line, make sure the length of time for exposure will be suitable for your dog.
Plan Your Route – In Relation to Current Trail Conditions
Be very familiar with your planned route. Know which trails you are taking and make sure they are all suitable for your dog to travel on. Know which trails have ladders or very steep pitches, and know which trails have dangerous open crossings such as the slide on Wildcat, Owlshead, Whiteface, East Osceola and the Osceola chimney. Be aware of the current trail conditions, as they can change on a daily basis. Keep in mind that just because someone packed out the trail yesterday, high winds or new snow will change that. Special precautions and supplies might be needed if the current trails are icy, have steep slippery slopes, have open river crossings, or deep, unpacked snow. Conditions could often be such that your planned trip might be suitable for you, but not your dog. Don’t take that risk, and be prepared to abort your hike if need be.
Know Your Dog
Make sure you are aware of your dog’s current fitness level, and know how long and how far your dog can comfortably travel in winter conditions. Make sure to factor in distance, elevation, time, weather and trail conditions with the dogs ability for every trip you plan.
Know their coat, and at what temperatures and for how long your dog can comfortably stay outside in winter conditions.
Make sure they are getting plenty of food and water to keep up their energy levels throughout the day, and carry extra in case of emergency.
Recognize any signs of fatigue, injury or distress and BE PREPARED TO TURN AROUND! (some dogs might get right in front of you and lay down – that’s a sign to stop). You might choose to push through an injury or fatigue, but do not make that choice for your dog.
Protect your peakdoggers paws. Wet or unpacked trail conditions can especially lead to painful snowballs that build up on your dog’s paw’s and may prevent them from continuing on. Try, “Musher’s Secret” (a wax applied to their paws) or fitted booties. Know beforehand what works for your dog.
Certain weather or trail conditions may require certain emergency gear. You may need a rope, carabineers and a harness to safely cross your dog on open slopes. The rope along with a small saw, can also be used in an emergency if you need to make a carrying cot for your dog in case of injury to your dog. Also, make sure to carry a winter rated sleeping bag that can be used for yourself and your dog in case of emergency.