Winter weather not only means opportunities for Bryon and I to enjoy skiing and snowshoeing, but is an also an opportunity for Shawnee and Simon, our two dogs, to have fun in the snow. And do they love the snow! Being that both have longer, thicker fur, they love the cold weather and snow, and their energy levels seem to go up when the snow starts to fly. But having all that fur can also bring problems in winter, especially for the paws. Because they have lots of fur between their pads, when they are out in the snow, they tend to get ice balls that form between their pads, which can be very painful. Dog booties are a great remedy for this, and keep them prancing and happy in the snow. We order from a place in Alaska that sells them to dog mushers, and they are reasonably inexpensive, perhaps $10-12 for a pair. They are just made of cordura type fabric and are simple in design, with a strap at the top with a velcro closure. When we first got Simon, we tried buying these very expensive, hiking bootie type for Simon, and took him out on a hike. Within 10 minutes, he was running off the trail, and two boots went flying through the woods, never to be seen again. That’s when we started doing some research on what the Iditarod dogs wear. When we first got the new winter booties, they were much better, but unfortunately were black in color. Since Simon is black, he would lose a boot and we wouldn’t be able to tell. Now we buy the booties in bulk in Blaze Orange for both Simon and Shawnee, so it’s easy to tell if (a) their boots are on and (b), to find a boot that may have come off.
The second piece of winter equipment we are trying for the first time this winter is skijoring. Skijoring is a form of winter sport where a skier uses a harness and a bungee type line to hook up to animal, preferably a dog, who pulls the skier along the snow. Skijoring can also be done with horses, and is in fact very popular in some of the Colorado mountain towns, which hosts contests during the winter. But the dog type is probably more common, and can be done with one or two dogs, of a medium size or larger. The dog usually needs to be around 35-40 pounds or bigger and just want to pull. Commands similar to dog sledding are used — “Go” for starting off, “Gee” and “Haw” to turn right and left. It’s a fun way to get your dogs out in the snow, burn some energy, and keep them safe since they are tethered to you through the harness.
Winter affords just as many opportunities for you and your dog to have fun in the outdoors as summer, but both of you will enjoy it a lot more if you are properly fitted. Happy trails and let it snow!