4 Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Snow

Halfway through your walk around the block, your dog lifts up his paw and hobbles on three legs. Then he stops and licks his paw. You coax him to move forward. After twenty feet of walking in fresh snow, he stops limping. Then the cycle repeats after the next salted sidewalk.

Why is your dog limping? Is it the salt irritating his paws? Or the cold snow?

Over the years, I have noticed a few things. Dog standing in the snow

  • Some dogs are more sensitive to snow and salt than others. This may have to do with the webbing between their toes, the amount of fur on their pads, and personal tolerance.
  • Fresh snow has sharper crystals and may irritate your dog’s paws more than snow that is several days old.
  • Cold weather, below 20 degrees causes more irritation to their paws than warmer snow.
  • Fresh salt bothers my dog’s paws much more than salt that has been out for a few days.
  • Snowballs forming between my dog’s toes cause as much (or more) irritation than salt. These usually form with fresh snow that is near the melting temperature
  • Walking on more snow dilutes the salt and my dog stops limping.

Recommendations for walking in residential areas:

  1. If it is very cold, put booties on your dog.
    • Try to use booties that do not collect snow at the top. I recently discovered Pawz rubber boots and loved them. Pawz booties work well on my cocker spaniel who only walks a few blocks. I’m not sure if they would be as effective cross-country skiing in the woods for hours in the deep snow. Booties were always a problem when we took my springer spaniel skiing.
  2. Only walk in cleared areas. My husband snow blows from one corner to the next to give us a good walking area. The neighbors and the mail carrier love this!
  3. Avoid roads and sidewalks where there is fresh salt.
  4. Only do a very short walk until the snow is a day old and not so sharp. Then you can go for long

Before every dog walk, take a minute to plan your route and prepare your dog so that you both enjoy it.

Next week I will discuss pet-friendly (and not so pet friendly) ice melts.

What have you observed when walking your dog in the snow? Do you think about the snow conditions?

Please leave a comment below.

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27 thoughts on “4 Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Snow

  1. This is great advice and thank you for the bootie recommendation. We just had a big snow and it was hard to know what to do…. I do get my paws wiped when I come in with sensitive skin baby wipes no matter what the weather — there are lots of chemicals out there….

  2. I am thankful that we have a few parks with walking trails that we can use that have virgin snow. I always keep the pads of Gusto’s paws trimmed so that it is easier for him to walk. So far we have had mostly soft snow. None of my dogs have liked booties…maybe it’s because they have slipped around on their legs so much. I will check out the new designs in the future.

  3. I don’t think about snow since we live in the desert. Maybe someday. Or for a special trip. I’m glad that you like the Pawz booties, though, for Buffy. I bought some for Bernie to protect him from hot pavement in the Tucson summers. He’s so fussy! He would not wear them, so I gave them to a friend. I do think Lizzie will like them since she likes wearing clothes and harnesses. I’ll need to try them with her.

  4. I don’t have a dog however as an observer I have seen dogs with booties in the pouring rain. Actually it was a full on rain hat, rain coat and rain booties. Normally I’d think ” That’s too much” however on this particular day, it was NECESSARY! I guess for any dog parent, stay observant and protect your pups from the weather conditions. Mother nature is no joke.

    • The package of Pawz came in a group of 12, so losing one would not be a problem. And they are brightly colored, at least mine are. My Cassie would often lose her fleece booties while running down a steep hill on a ski trail. I usually had to stop in the middle of a good glide to pick it up.

  5. I did my share of shoveling and trail creation and grooming when Cookie was recovering from her injuries. Otherwise, normally she does fine with any amount of snow. Though she doesn’t mind mommy going first and making way when it’s too deep or crusty.

  6. I often see doggies who don’t live in our subdivision bein’ walked ’round here. Peeps will sometimes drive their doggies here, to walk on the streets where they only sand and don’t use salt (on account of the wells). It’s a super good idea, I think. PURRS.

  7. Your points about booties/ shoes and avoiding salted streets & sidewalks are so important. Their feet are exposed to cold elements as well as potential irritants, like salt. Thank you for reminding pet parents about these two points!

  8. Ruby doesn’t like the cold and snow very much. I had no idea that fresh snow was more irritating on dog paws. This may explain why Ruby is always more hesitant to go outside when it is snowing.

  9. My dog is content wearing sweaters and coats during the cold winter months, but booties or any form of paw coverings for the matter present a challenge. Although she isn’t bothered by fresh snow, the salt and ice really burns her paws. We’ve tried different paw protectors but I guess we need to preserver.

    • I’ve put booties on many different dogs and they don’t like it, but if you take them out and leash them right away, they usually do okay. You could also try paw wax, like Musher’s Secret. It works very well, except it can be messy inside the house.

  10. DH snow blows a track in the backyard for the dogs to use as their snow run since we have a fenced in yard. We don’t walk much during winter as we live in a hilly area and when it’s icy it isn’t great.

  11. We didn’t have snow for quite some time now in Europe, where I live. This winter is almost like spring, it’s crazy! Climate changes are going strong I guess. These are some really helpful tips, thanks!

  12. Great tips! My Roxy isn’t a fan of boots, so we’re lucky they use dirt for the roads here instead of salt, so her feet don’t get too irritated. Sometimes they’ll start limping a bit in the backyard when it’s icy, but the fireplace is a good way to thaw out!

  13. Great info here. I’d never thought of fresh snow as having sharper crystals before. If I lived in a snowy area, I would definitely try the booties for my dog.

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