Skiing with Dogs
I know that not everyone has the luxury of taking their dogs with them nearly everywhere they go. They become a member of our family. It would be wonderful to share our everyday with the ones who are there to love us. Even on the days we didn’t shower or after the disagreement about removing things out of the garage. Granted, there are days it would be easier if they just took care of themselves for a while, but in the end, the saying that a dog is mans best friend rings fairly true.
I am fortunate to have my companion, Kiah, with me most of the time. She sleeps beside the bed, goes to work with me and to run errands. Most importantly she plays in the woods with me. Early morning trail runs, weekend hikes and she is never to be left out from a day in the snow.
Kiah is an Australian Cattle Dog (or ACD for short). Some people know them as blue or red heelers. And yes, she is a ski dog! In the 60 some days I got in skiing last year, she was there by my side for 80 percent of them (resort days were sans dog, naturally). Most wouldn’t think of short haired, medium sized ACDs as being very winter tolerant, but that really just isn’t the case. As for a lot of breeds, they are quite well adept to keeping warm in the snow.
Because she is a companion which I care for quite some bit however, I did take some measures to help keep her comfortable as we frolicked in the snow. A concern that comes up frequently for many dogs is the balling of snow between the pads of their paws. Not to mention that anyone who has skid bare skin across icy snow know how abrasive it can be. First thing I tried was the booties. We’ve all seen them and enjoyed a good laugh as the dog steps awkwardly around before they potentially get use to the idea of these silly shoes. Now, I’m not in complete opposition to them. I think they work well for the other three seasons, however in the snow you can quickly go from a functional quantity of four, quickly to three and two, and eventually to one which you end up sticking in your pocket in order not to just be scattering dog gear throughout the woods. This is all without mention of the often considerable price of these things. Now days, I opt for a much easier, more reliable and cheaper option of a product called Mushers Secret. It is a waterproof wax/salve that you apply to your dogs paws before heading out into the wild white. It works amazingly well and surprise, mushers swear by it.
The second issue that needed to be contended with is the fact that dogs are much lower to the ground than we are. This means that 8 wonderful inches of untracked snow means that your medium sized dog could be “waist deep” in the snow (and who knows where your chihuahua is)! This really poses several possible issues. If you have a long hair breed, there is the balling of snow problem again. And if it is short haired then they are subject to the abrasions factor (and particularly in the “more sensitive” regions). Secondly, the contact of cold snow directly with the chest and midsection of your dog puts them in danger of hypothermia. They are able to manage the heat loss from the top and back of the body with their skin and coat but the chest is a direct conduit of heat loss from vital organs. I looked for ways to solve this with products already produced on the market but they all fell short in some way or another. In the end, with a lot of R&D I came up with the AR Base Shield.
Lastly, I know that many people don’t have access to large off leash areas. Some of the skiing I do is in a state park where there are regulations regarding leashes and physical control of your dog. I am respectful of this and firmly agree that safety and control of your companion while skiing is a must. Leashes typically have to be six feet or less by regulation and have a secure contact with the pet and owner (see local guidelines). A typical leash will qualify but is significantly inconvenient for skiing or even snow shoeing. Again, I looked for the right product and was at a loss so I went to the design table again and developed the Tour Leash. This has allowed me to be hands free from the leash while still maintaining contact and control. The integrated bungee system reduces the effects of pulling an the cross body sling is equipped with a quick release should a precarious situation occur.
These three simple things have made backcountry adventures with my dog immensely more enjoyable for her an stress free for me. I don’t want to present that these are the only tools your need to safely and responsibility take your four legged friend along. It goes without saying that proper training (for you and your dog) along with knowledge of the environment you’ll be traveling in is imperative. But with some research, considerations and minimal investment you can bring your canine relationships to the wide open.