Snowshoeing with dogs

Equipment, preparation, safety: How you and your dog can enjoy snowshoeing responsibly.

Susanne’s main companion is her dog Carlie – not on this tour, but on countless others. In this blog post, she gives helpful tips on equipment and preparation for snowshoeing with a dog, and we talk about the tension between winter hiking with a dog and the need to protect wildlife.

Elliot the dog sits in the snow with a pair of snowshoes in the background, ready for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.
Elliot sits in front of this breathtaking backdrop, ready for his next snowshoe adventure.
Elliot the dog sits in the snow with a pair of snowshoes in the background, ready for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.
Elliot sits in front of this breathtaking backdrop, ready for his next snowshoe adventure.

Susanne and I (Elmar) ventured up the challenging ascent to the Portlahorn in Damüls on snowshoes.

Elliot the dog sits in the snow with a pair of snowshoes in the background, ready for a snowshoe hike in the mountains.
Elliot sits in front of this breathtaking backdrop, ready for his next snowshoe adventure.

Susanne’s main companion is her dog Carlie – not on this tour, but on countless others. In this blog post, she gives helpful tips on equipment and preparation for snowshoeing with a dog, and we talk about the tension between winter hiking with a dog and the need to protect wildlife.

Susanne and I (Elmar) ventured up the challenging ascent to the Portlahorn in Damüls on snowshoes.

The beginning of my tours with a dog

My journey from skiing to snowshoeing

Elmar: Susanne, what made you start snowshoeing with your dog?

Susanne: I have loved the mountains all my life. Since 2006 dogs have been my constant companions. All my dogs, especially Diego and Tessi, loved snow. Maybe because of its versatility – sometimes hard, sometimes soft, sometimes dry, sometimes liquid. So it made sense to explore the mountains with them in winter. We’re talking about real snow, not just the few flakes that fall in Franconia and the Oberpfalz.

Susanne: Until a few years ago, I used to go skiing with my mom for a few days every year – skiing during the day and long walks with my dogs Diego and Tessi before and after, so we had very active and enjoyable days. In the evening we were all happy and tired, with that special smell of snow in our hair and fur.

Off-piste adventure

Susanne: At some point, skiing was no longer an option – Mom’s knees were no longer playing ball – and so we continued to spend our winter vacations together, without skis and on the usual winter hiking trails in the valley or near the mountain stations that could be reached by cable car. Now on our side: Elliot, a muscular German Shepherd mix, a young, happy sunshine.

The winter trails were usually covered quickly, and there were tempting tracks and branches off the beaten path – a strenuous affair without snowshoes!

Susanne with her dog Elliot outside a mountain station in winter, ready for a walk on snow-covered trails.
Susanne and her dog Carlie are standing at the top of a ski lift in bright sunshine, ready to explore the winter trails.

My journey from skiing to snowshoeing

Elmar: Susanne, what made you start snowshoeing with your dog?

Susanne: I have loved the mountains all my life. Since 2006 dogs have been my constant companions. All my dogs, especially Diego and Tessi, loved snow. Maybe because of its versatility – sometimes hard, sometimes soft, sometimes dry, sometimes liquid. So it made sense to explore the mountains with them in winter. We’re talking about real snow, not just the few flakes that fall in Franconia and the Oberpfalz.

Susanne: Until a few years ago, I used to go skiing with my mom for a few days every year – skiing during the day and long walks with my dogs Diego and Tessi before and after, so we had very active and enjoyable days. In the evening we were all happy and tired, with that special smell of snow in our hair and fur.

Susanne with her dog Elliot outside a mountain station in winter, ready for a walk on snow-covered trails.
Susanne and her dog Carlie are standing at the top of a ski lift in bright sunshine, ready to explore the winter trails.

Off-piste adventure

Susanne: At some point, skiing was no longer an option – Mom’s knees were no longer playing ball – and so we continued to spend our winter vacations together, without skis and on the usual winter hiking trails in the valley or near the mountain stations that could be reached by cable car. Now on our side: Elliot, a muscular German Shepherd mix, a young, happy sunshine.

The winter trails were usually covered quickly, and there were tempting tracks and branches off the beaten path – a strenuous affair without snowshoes!

First experience with snowshoes

Susanne: In 2017, on holiday on the Ritten near Bolzano, after mum had been to the spa after our winter hike together and I still had some energy left over, I borrowed snowshoes from the hotel for the first time – and walked and walked, on little paths in the woods, a bit along the closed ski run, on the winter hiking trail, Elliot had just as much fun as I did, only I probably sweated more than he did. . Tired and happy, we returned to the hotel. That day was the beginning of my passion for snowshoeing. We climbed a little over 500 meters of altitude – the desire was awakened!

Susanne: In 2017, on holiday on the Ritten near Bolzano, after mum had been to the spa after our winter hike together and I still had some energy left over, I borrowed snowshoes from the hotel for the first time – and walked and walked, on little paths in the woods, a bit along the closed ski run, on the winter hiking trail, Elliot had just as much fun as I did, only I probably sweated more than he did. . Tired and happy, we returned to the hotel. That day was the beginning of my passion for snowshoeing. We climbed a little over 500 meters of altitude – the desire was awakened!

Training and working with dogs

Susanne: Elliot got used to the snowshoes very quickly. He knew the poles from hiking, he knew how to stay in front of or behind me on the trail, and hunting is prohibited everywhere anyway. It took me a lot of time and training, but I think it’s absolutely necessary. In the forest, people and dogs stay on the trails and don’t disturb the animals that live there. Otherwise, you can run free if you behave well and listen to the boss.

A dog on the edge of the wilderness, leaving a trail of snow, an image that makes us think about the impact of winter sports on wildlife.
As the dog looks off into the distance, the footprints in the snow are a reminder that when snowshoeing with a dog, one must be mindful of the needs of wildlife.

Susanne: If you attach the flexi leash to the hip belt of your backpack, your hands are free – provided that the rascal respects the end of the leash and doesn’t make any other motivated jumps that catapult you into the next snowdrift!

See above, rules of behavior don’t hurt 😉. In the meantime, this has become a good solution for us when free running is not possible – be it mountain or snowshoe hiking. However, I always carry a short leash with me.

Susanne: Elliot got used to the snowshoes very quickly. He knew the poles from hiking, he knew how to stay in front of or behind me on the trail, and hunting is prohibited everywhere anyway. It took me a lot of time and training, but I think it’s absolutely necessary. In the forest, people and dogs stay on the trails and don’t disturb the animals that live there. Otherwise, you can run free if you behave well and listen to the boss.

A dog on the edge of the wilderness, leaving a trail of snow, an image that makes us think about the impact of winter sports on wildlife.
As the dog looks off into the distance, the footprints in the snow are a reminder that when snowshoeing with a dog, one must be mindful of the needs of wildlife.
A dog on the edge of the wilderness, leaving a trail of snow, an image that makes us think about the impact of winter sports on wildlife.
As the dog looks off into the distance, the footprints in the snow are a reminder that when snowshoeing with a dog, one must be mindful of the needs of wildlife.

Susanne: If you attach the flexi leash to the hip belt of your backpack, your hands are free – provided that the rascal respects the end of the leash and doesn’t make any other motivated jumps that catapult you into the next snowdrift!

See above, rules of behavior don’t hurt 😉. In the meantime, this has become a good solution for us when free running is not possible – be it mountain or snowshoe hiking. However, I always carry a short leash with me.

In the snow: the right equipment for dog and owner

Elmar: What equipment do you think is essential when you go out in the snow with your dogs?

Susanne: Even on longer snowshoe hikes, I always carry the usual hiking equipment for the dog: water, a bowl, a few dog biscuits as a reward, a snack or an extended snack for longer hikes, and the first aid kit for humans and dogs is always with me anyway. Muzzles are usually required for gondolas or public transportation, and a comfortable harness that the dog cannot slip out of is just as practical, whether in a chairlift or on steep rocky steps when the dog needs a helping hand. The “dog with a handle” has often proven its worth – for example, when a high-spirited furry friend is stuck in deep snow 😉.

Depending on the temperature and wind, the furry nose gets its winter coat. So far, my furry friends don’t have a long, thick coat, but enough undercoat to be able to walk without a coat when the temperature is comfortable.

Elmar: What equipment do you think is essential when you go out in the snow with your dogs?

Susanne: Even on longer snowshoe hikes, I always carry the usual hiking equipment for the dog: water, a bowl, a few dog biscuits as a reward, a snack or an extended snack for longer hikes, and the first aid kit for humans and dogs is always with me anyway. Muzzles are usually required for gondolas or public transportation, and a comfortable harness that the dog cannot slip out of is just as practical, whether in a chairlift or on steep rocky steps when the dog needs a helping hand. The “dog with a handle” has often proven its worth – for example, when a high-spirited furry friend is stuck in deep snow 😉.

Depending on the temperature and wind, the furry nose gets its winter coat. So far, my furry friends don’t have a long, thick coat, but enough undercoat to be able to walk without a coat when the temperature is comfortable.

Care and comfort for dogs on snow tours

Elliot on a snow-covered peak with a summit cross in the background.
A summit meeting of a special kind: Elliot enjoys the successful ascent while his four-legged companion explores the surroundings.

Susanne: We haven’t needed paw ointment yet, but for dogs with sensitive paws you should have it on hand, as well as dog booties, which don’t weigh much and are helpful in an emergency. Ice can be very sharp.

Susanne: Just like us, dogs enjoy breaks where they can rest, relax, have a snack and a drink. A dog blanket to rest on is useful for longer hikes. I have made my own insulated picnic blanket with a waterproof underside that I take with me when I stay overnight in a mountain hut. If the dog is exhausted or cold, you have to warm him up and stop the tour.

Since 2021, I’ve had a new dog by my side – Carlie, a one-year-old shelter dog, a cross between a German Shepherd, a Ridgeback and a Border Collie. Full of energy and eager to move, she has taken the place of Elliot, who is now too old for long walks.

Susanne: We haven’t needed paw ointment yet, but for dogs with sensitive paws you should have it on hand, as well as dog booties, which don’t weigh much and are helpful in an emergency. Ice can be very sharp.

Elliot on a snow-covered peak with a summit cross in the background.
A summit meeting of a special kind: Elliot enjoys the successful ascent while his four-legged companion explores the surroundings.
Elliot on a snow-covered peak with a summit cross in the background.
A summit meeting of a special kind: Elliot enjoys the successful ascent while his four-legged companion explores the surroundings.

Susanne: Just like us, dogs enjoy breaks where they can rest, relax, have a snack and a drink. A dog blanket to rest on is useful for longer hikes. I have made my own insulated picnic blanket with a waterproof underside that I take with me when I stay overnight in a mountain hut. If the dog is exhausted or cold, you have to warm him up and stop the tour.

Since 2021, I’ve had a new dog by my side – Carlie, a one-year-old shelter dog, a cross between a German Shepherd, a Ridgeback and a Border Collie. Full of energy and eager to move, she has taken the place of Elliot, who is now too old for long walks.

Equipped with sunglasses

Susanne: Carlie now has her own dog sunglasses.

Elmar: Just like the dog – I took the photo on a ski tour from Gargellen to the Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019.

Susanne: Yes, we’ve learned from experience: in April 2023 at an altitude of over 2000 meters in the Silvretta in bright sunshine. If YOU as a human can’t get along without sunglasses because the sun is burning down and the snow is reflecting – think of your dog! Your four-legged friend won’t be able to see as clearly if his eyes are hurting. Snow blindness caused by prolonged and intense exposure to the sun can also lead to permanent damage in dogs, including cataracts, irreparable damage to the cornea and retina, and in the worst cases, blindness.

A dog wearing snow goggles stands next to ski equipment in deep snow, photographed during a ski tour from Gargellen to Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019.
During a ski tour on the Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019, Elmar happened to meet a group with a dog.

Susanne: Carlie now has her own dog sunglasses.

Elmar: Just like the dog – I took the photo on a ski tour from Gargellen to the Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019.

A dog wearing snow goggles stands next to ski equipment in deep snow, photographed during a ski tour from Gargellen to Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019.
During a ski tour on the Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019, Elmar happened to meet a group with a dog.
A dog wearing snow goggles stands next to ski equipment in deep snow, photographed during a ski tour from Gargellen to Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019.
During a ski tour on the Vergaldner Schneeberg in March 2019, Elmar happened to meet a group with a dog.

Susanne: Yes, we’ve learned from experience: in April 2023 at an altitude of over 2000 meters in the Silvretta in bright sunshine. If YOU as a human can’t get along without sunglasses because the sun is burning down and the snow is reflecting – think of your dog! Your four-legged friend won’t be able to see as clearly if his eyes are hurting. Snow blindness caused by prolonged and intense exposure to the sun can also lead to permanent damage in dogs, including cataracts, irreparable damage to the cornea and retina, and in the worst cases, blindness.

Safe and prudent: prepare correctly

Recognize risks and enjoy the beauty of winter safely.

Susanne: The three of us, the four of us, have already done some great tours in the snow together. In the meantime we (humans) have become more confident: For snowshoeing or ski touring, I still usually follow the advice of the local tourist office, use an avalanche warning app, carry an avalanche transceiver, and am much more aware of the dangers than I used to be. But now I plan my own trours or have a guide (Dirk) at my side who is even better at it than I am and knows what my wife and dog can and want. Not every route is suitable for every dog (and every person). It’s important that the route is suitable for everyone!

Fit for winter hiking: Carlie's Preparation and Safety

Susanne: Since we regularly go for long walks at home in all weathers and are active in dog sports, I don’t do any preparatory training with Carlie. However, if the dog has no experience or is not used to long hikes, you shouldn’t start from scratch. The dog must be healthy and fit enough for the hike; if in doubt, I consult the vet beforehand.

We haven’t ventured into the high mountains yet, firstly because you (we 😉) can’t climb that many meters with snowshoes, and secondly because the dog has to work hard in the deep snow. When I’m planning a tour, I try to avoid ski slopes as much as possible, and I’m careful even on ski trails. I keep my distance and keep the dog with me – the more people, the shorter the leash.

Carlie must be kept on a leash at all times when there is avalanche danger.

Susanne: And when we are in an area where we have to be careful because of avalanches, Carlie stays on the lead and in my tracks. It wouldn’t be good if she triggered a snow slab or fell with an overhanging snow slab.

Angie, a dog with a specially programmed avalanche beeper on her collar, sits in the snow against a mountain backdrop.
Angie, Sabine and Werner's dog - equipped with an avalanche transceiver on a different frequency.

Recognize risks and enjoy the beauty of winter safely.

Susanne: The three of us, the four of us, have already done some great tours in the snow together. In the meantime we (humans) have become more confident: For snowshoeing or ski touring, I still usually follow the advice of the local tourist office, use an avalanche warning app, carry an avalanche transceiver, and am much more aware of the dangers than I used to be. But now I plan my own trours or have a guide (Dirk) at my side who is even better at it than I am and knows what my wife and dog can and want. Not every route is suitable for every dog (and every person). It’s important that the route is suitable for everyone!

Angie, a dog with a specially programmed avalanche beeper on her collar, sits in the snow against a mountain backdrop.
Angie, Sabine and Werner's dog - equipped with an avalanche transceiver on a different frequency.

Fit for winter hiking: Carlie's Preparation and Safety

Susanne: Since we regularly go for long walks at home in all weathers and are active in dog sports, I don’t do any preparatory training with Carlie. However, if the dog has no experience or is not used to long hikes, you shouldn’t start from scratch. The dog must be healthy and fit enough for the hike; if in doubt, I consult the vet beforehand.

We haven’t ventured into the high mountains yet, firstly because you (we 😉) can’t climb that many meters with snowshoes, and secondly because the dog has to work hard in the deep snow. When I’m planning a tour, I try to avoid ski slopes as much as possible, and I’m careful even on ski trails. I keep my distance and keep the dog with me – the more people, the shorter the leash.

Carlie must be kept on a leash at all times when there is avalanche danger.

Susanne: And when we are in an area where we have to be careful because of avalanches, Carlie stays on the lead and in my tracks. It wouldn’t be good if she triggered a snow slab or fell with an overhanging snow slab.

With respect and consideration

Snowshoeing with dogs in wildlife habitat

Elmar: It’s wonderful how much you and your dogs enjoy snowshoeing. But I am concerned about the wildlife in these areas. How do you deal with the possibility that your activities could disturb wildlife?

Susanne: I understand your concerns. I am indeed very careful when choosing my hiking areas. For example, we hiked from the Bielerhöhe to the Hennekopf, on the route we are clearly not in a wildlife rest area and in an area heavily frequented by ski tourers – and – I always make sure that my dog stays in my tracks and sticks to the rules.

Susanne: Elmar, do you also offer guided snowshoe hikes with dogs?

Elmar: No, the main reason is that I have no experience in dealing with dogs. I don’t have the routine and I’m not sure whether I could act correctly in an unforeseen situation.

Would you like to take an active role in conservation? Then click here and discover the Respektiere Deine Grenzen – initiative – it is not only dedicated to protecting wild animals, but also to preserving their habitats. Find out more about their conservation goals and what you can do to help!

Gedankengang

💬 I look forward to your feedback, thoughts and stories.

Snowshoeing with dogs in wildlife habitat

Elmar: It’s wonderful how much you and your dogs enjoy snowshoeing. But I am concerned about the wildlife in these areas. How do you deal with the possibility that your activities could disturb wildlife?

Susanne: I understand your concerns. I am indeed very careful when choosing my hiking areas. For example, we hiked from the Bielerhöhe to the Hennekopf, on the route we are clearly not in a wildlife rest area and in an area heavily frequented by ski tourers – and – I always make sure that my dog stays in my tracks and sticks to the rules.

Susanne: Elmar, do you also offer guided snowshoe hikes with dogs?

Elmar: No, the main reason is that I have no experience in dealing with dogs. I don’t have the routine and I’m not sure whether I could act correctly in an unforeseen situation.

Would you like to take an active role in conservation? Then click here and discover the Respektiere Deine Grenzen – initiative – it is not only dedicated to protecting wild animals, but also to preserving their habitats. Find out more about their conservation goals and what you can do to help!

Gedankengang

💬 I look forward to your feedback, thoughts and stories.