January 3


3 Musts for Winter Dog Hiking to Keep Your Dog Safe

By Brian Burke

January 3, 2021

Welcome to "3 Musts for Winter Dog Hiking to Keep Your Dog Safe".  This post is a "warm up" to my complete Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide, which is a power-packed, multi-step guide / tutorial and is FREE for a limited time!

This warm up (get the irony?  "warm" up...) below in this post, covers the first couple of steps of my overall winter dog hiking advice.

The steps here, start with the walk/hike itself, and move on to equipment suggestions for protection from the cold.  

VIDEO ABOVE: Just a Quick and Fun video to show how COOL it is to head out on a Winter Hike!!!


Read on because I I use funny terms like "Booties" below and talk about cool stuff like "Musher's Secret"!

One way to help prepare your dog for handling the cold is to gradually increase the time you spend outside (preferably as it starts to get colder and colder in late fall).

Before it starts to get too cold out, see how your dog reacts to the air temperature, ground temperature (if paws get cold), etc.  Stay out longer each time you go out.  

And if it's already the dead of winter and you didn't have time to build up, the same technique applies.  Just increase exposure little by little.

The same is true for the distance you travel if you head out on a hike or walk--detailed below.  Gradually increase it over time.


Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide

LIMITED TIME OFFER: Feel less guilty and curious if your dog is too cold while outside, by following the brief and concise sections in my Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide.  FREE for a limited time!  

Learn how to use a leash which gives your dog freedom, but also gives you peace of mind that they'll be safe.  See signs of a BEAR I found.  Learn how to know if your dog is too cold!  Download it for FREE today before this offer ends!

Winter Dog Hiking Mass Dog Hikes

My black lab has no problem in cold temperatures where other dogs would be shivering.  Labs used to jump off of ships into the freezing cold ocean generations ago to retrieve fishing nets--they are more tolerant to the cold.  (But you still need to pay attention if it's super cold out).

However, my hound (whom we rescued from the south) looks up at you like, "Dude, seriously.  Enough.  I'd rather have my bladder burst than stay out here...)

VIDEO ABOVE: Learn why I have Booties with me just in case...

Another benefit of gradual increases in time spent outside (each outing) during the colder weather, is that it builds the up pads of their paws to be more resistant.  Just like we get calluses on our hands and feet that help reduce sensitivity to friction, pads can also become more resistant with repeated exposure.  

Below, I'll also discuss this incremental increase issue with dog apparel also, but first let's talk about increases in the distance you travel, versus just the time you stay out.  

If this is your first winter with your dog, and/or you're not really sure its exact breed, then paying attention to their cold tolerance is super important.

Your dog may show signs of pain in their paws, or early signs of hypothermia (discussed in the Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide, FREE for a limited time) while you are further away from home than you'd like.

So embark on shorter walks as you are still getting to know their tolerance.  Or even if you know their tendencies, still start of small at the beginning of each winter.  Gradually increase them.

In the winter, I always have booties (explained in the next section), a towel and maybe some petroleum jelly or paw balm with me ( my pack shows these in the image above).

Winter Dog Hiking with Mushers Secret

"Musher's Secret" is a very popular brand of paw balm helps mitigate the contact with the ice, snow and otherwise cold ground.

Just think how difficult it'd be if you were a decent distance from your home and your dog pulled up lame or started showing signs of hypothermia.  

Winter Dog Hiking with Bears



(Sorry for the reference to a 1970's Disco song in the title above...I couldn't resist!)

Sometimes your dog's paws can hurt because it is just plain super cold, and sometimes it can be due to irritation to surface agents such as salt, so you just have to pay attention in all cases.  (I touch on the salt issue in the Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide).  FREE for a limited time.

Sometimes you'll see a dog stop and pull up their paw(s) that hurt due to cold or salt exposure, often trying to lick them. It's definitely time to address the issue and head back in.

Winter Dog Hiking with Booties

This is my Patagonia backpack with dog booties, a towel and other items to mitigate the cold.

In these cases, I approach my dog and put my hand on her paw for a minute or so, in order to warm the paw up and also provide comfort to my pup.

But just know that even though it seems like a great idea, they may pull away and not let you.  

And if your dog is new to you, such as with a rescue, keep your face away in case she nips due to a reaction from past experiences and just plain not loving her paws being touched.  It's happened to me, trust me.

Winter Dog Hiking Rubber Booties

ABOVE: Mojo, one of my clients' dogs, wore "balloon-type" booties.  BELOW: And my dog pepper is wearing a more formal pair of booties.

Regarding footwear (booties), as mentioned in the first section above, When I head out for a hike or walk, I carry them with me if I don't put them on at the outset...even if I think I won't need them.  It's such a peace of mind to know that I have them just in case.

There are many different styles and brands.  Tons.

winter dog hiking strap on booties

There's even a kind that looks like a balloon--shown in the image above (the red booties) on a dog walking client of mine. These stay on fairly well, but can be a bit of a pain to put on at the outset.  These clients loved them.

Regarding the gradual / incremental technique with booties:

With any paw-wear, your dog will often walk awkwardly in the beginning, so give it a chance.  In fact, they may down-right hate them.  Even with all the patience in the world, it may not end up being the answer.  

Input from a "Smaht Dog"

Mass Dog Hikes Smaht dog

The "Smaht Dog" (yes, that's "smart" but with a Boston accent) would like to chime in as well:

When possible, try on any equipment that you are interested in, at the pet store...versus ordering online right away.  If you really want to eventually order online, you could still go to a store first and try things on your dog in person.

And please consider actually buying the equipment from the pet store to give local businesses "the business".  Or if you don't end up buying the booties there, maybe buy other things from them while you are there.

Certainly start putting them on before it gets cold out, to get them used to them and to see what you're in for in terms of their liking them or not!

The point is, either way, you have to find this out before you head out for your first walk when it's freezing out!

Ruffwear seems to be popular among my dog walking clients, in terms of a brand name for winter doggie booties.  The image above (with the black booties) shows my dog Pepper wearing the brand QUMY.  This brand is also pictured further above inside my orange backpack, and gives a good look at the soles.

These two brands (among many others) are durable and have a solid rubber sole with treads. 

But Wait...There's More!

There is obviously a ton more to know about keeping your dog warm and safe in the cold weather, but I don't want to keep you reading this post for hours!  So please check out more of my advice, besides these 3 steps, in all of my content, but especially in my limited time free offer for the Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide.  

Among other things in the Free Guide, I cover:

  • Knowing the signs of Hypothermia
  • Helping prevent falling through ice
  • Being aware of hidden hazards under the snow
  • Avoiding getting paws caught in drain grates
  • Keeping YOURSELF safe too, and more


If you thought booties came in many varieties, "you ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Do you want a zipper on the back?  Attached clasp for a leash on the back?  "Soft" fleece-like material?  A rain coat or water resistant shell?  A Velcro strap versus a zipper?  One that you slip on like a sweater? ...you get the point!

I don't want to bore with with a detailed review of all of the different styles, so let's just point out a few highlights that will help you, then, I encourage you to try some on in person (or should I say, have your DOG try some on!")

Check out how it fits over or under your dog's harness, if applicable.  Can the collar be easily accessed under the jacket if you need to attach a leash?

How easy is it to put on?  This is super important.

More "Smaht Dog" Advice:

The Smaht Dog knows about pain-in-the-butt gear...first hand (or paw)

If you are discouraged each time you need to put certain equipment on, and, your dog hates the process, it's likely that you won't even use it.  So make sure it goes on fairly quickly and easily before you buy it.  And/or, practice putting it on far before you actually need, to get them used to it.

And many styles of zippers are notorious for not working well after a while--for coming undone...sometimes as you're still zipping it up.  And snow and ice can make this issue worse.  ...And your fingers get cold when you need to fix it outside.  You get the point. 

Just make sure the zipper looks durable and is of good quality...or, just get a kind that has Velcro straps or pulls on like a sweater.  And if so, make sure your dog doesn't hate things being pulled over his head. 

Those with hoods might be cute, but just know that they can get caught on branches, in fences, etc.

Winter Dog Hiking Dog Jacket

Pepper is wearing a jacket that is water repellent on the outside shell, and fleece in the inside for more comfort and warmth.

And as I mentioned above, know your breed.  My lab wouldn't like any type of jacket, but for my hound pepper, it's essential.  

Just like with booties, get them used to it early, before it's super cold out.

And if possible, have a couple different styles for different weather conditions.


Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide

LIMITED TIME OFFER: Feel less guilty and curious if your dog is too cold while outside, by following the brief and concise sections in my Winter Dog Hiking and Walking Guide.  FREE for a limited time!  

Learn how to use a leash which gives your dog freedom, but also gives you peace of mind that they'll be safe.  See signs of a BEAR I found.  Learn how to know if your dog is too cold!  Download it for FREE today before this offer ends!

Winter Dog Hiking with Mass Dog Hikes

Mass Dog Hikes Heads in the Snow

3 ACTION STEPS...Now that you know:

  • Start introducing your dog to any winter gear and longer distances and time outside, a little bit at time, before it gets too cold all of a sudden.
  • Go to a pet store and try some jackets and booties on.  And buy some Musher's Secret or other paw balm there.
  • Pack a set of things to have handy and take with you when you head out, such as paw balm and a towel.

...And of course, consult your vet about the best options for treatment if they do end up getting affected by the cold, as well as other prevention techniques!

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