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Thread: Hiking in the winter with a Lab

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    Hiking in the winter with a Lab

    Hi everyone. This is my first winter hiking in the Whites with my dog. He's a Labrador Retriever. We did local hikes in the park last winter and he loves it. He goes swimming when it's only 20F out! He'll break the ice, swim for a bit then come out with ice on his fur. That can't be healthy but he does it anyways... He's never acted cold or tired. I was going to hike with him today but the temps are around 0 and I'm not sure if that's too cold for him?

    I'm sure there are Lab owners here that hike in the Whites. Do you need a jacket and booties for him? What's the coldest your dogs hiked in? Do you have any suggestions for stuff to bring?

  2. #2
    Senior Member brianW's Avatar
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    Labs were originally breed by fishermen of the coast of Canada to retrieve lines. They (at least mine) love the water and cold. Have taken mine out in from single digits and up with no problems. I cannot recall if I have done hikes with her below zero. No jacket or booties for mine.

    Hardest part on cold hikes is keeping her out of any water. but than again anyone with a lab has this problem.
    " The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator" -Louis Pasteur

  3. #3
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    I've known several Labs that worked as SAR dogs in cold conditions (AK, MN and New England.) Your sounds like it's perfectly suited to cold weather. Many Labs are used for retrieving ducks and geese in icy water.

    Just watch for footpad injury when it gets really cold. Dogs with shorter coats (even double coats like Labs) often need to be moving (or sheltered) to stay warm when it's below 15º F. The biggest risk is probably right at the start of a hike on a cold morning, while he's waiting for you to get ready at the trailhead.
    sardog1

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  4. #4
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    IMO, booties are a must. Snow balling in their paws was her only real issue. Plan on buying two sets, as I've lost a few over time.

    I did get a fleece-lined, orange nylon shell jacket that she would wear if it was really cold...like 0. Otherwise, she never showed any signs of any issues with the cold. She would swim in the winter streams, too, and other than ice hanging off her, she looked normal.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    I might get booties in case he cuts a foot. If he's not used to wearing them it might not help to start using them in the middle of a hike though.

  6. #6
    Senior Member --M.'s Avatar
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    I encourage you to bring him along a little at a time (as I'm sure you would!). The pie chart of dogs I've seen on the trails has too many who were unhappy, whether from cut-up paws, dehydration, social stuff, whatever. My yellow Lab could do the Whites, but only if he really got seasoned up first. Unless/until, he's a neighborhood dog. Please provide a scouting report when he (what's your pup's name?) goes on his first hike north of the Lakes!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    His name's Boone and he's 1.5 years old. I'm planning on doing a small dayhike tomorrow. Maybe the Hancocks? We did tecumsah at the end of last winter and sled down the ski slope. He ran down the entire slope after us.

  8. #8
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    Regarding the booties, she never liked them. If I put one on, she would try to avoid stepping down with that paw. Same when I put the second on. Eventually, she'd need to deal with it as they were on all four paws.

    I'd just start walking, and she would either sit there or follow. So, she followed.

    One note, though, is that they actually would make her lose her grip a little on some icy spots. Her claws would've worked better. That was rare and worth it.

    I would also have her wear them in the Presi's year round. Summit scree can be nasty on paws.

  9. #9
    Senior Member una_dogger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dug View Post
    One note, though, is that they actually would make her lose her grip a little on some icy spots. Her claws would've worked better. That was rare and worth it.

    I would also have her wear them in the Presi's year round. Summit scree can be nasty on paws.

    Just a couple of notes on boots -- I use the Ruffwear Griptex booties in the Northerns -- the scree is really abrasive (even for dogs with trail hardened paws) and on a hot summer day can burn paws as well. Sadly, learned through experience.

    Booties in winter -- great for snowballing protection but can lead to foot injuries from slipping so it may be a good idea to take them off when things get steep-- Terra dislocated two superficial digital tendons (the tendons that hold dog's toes in a natural arch) last winter and I'm pretty sure it was due to the extra stress of having to grip extra hard to avoid slipping in boots going up steeps. Fortunatley, these are not debilitating or painful injuries but can lead to foot arthritis down the road.

    Other issues we've had with boots on long winter hikes -- boots begin to freeze in shapes that are not comfortable for dogs to walk in. Just another thing to look out for to keep your dog happy and comfy.

    Good luck with Boone, he sounds like a great dog!
    Last edited by una_dogger; 12-29-2011 at 08:00 AM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member freighttrain48's Avatar
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    dont know anything about winter hiking with dogs but I love your avitar picture Mongoose!
    wm48 42/48
    nehh 45/100
    52wav 7/52

  11. #11
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    My Lab Bookah has been hiking 4 seasons a year for all of her life. I've only seen her get a little cold twice. Each time it was a bitter cold winter day, low temps and windy. In both instances it was while we were standing around on a summit for an extended period of time. As soon as we started moving, she warmed right up.

    Bookah wades thru mid winter streams then back out into the snow. I asked Boo's vet about cold weather hiking and she told me that Labs have amazing circulation in their paws that lets them cope with cold weather and snow.

    I feel a bigger issue with hiker-Labs is the warm weather months. The same double coat and insulation that keeps them warm in winter can overheat them in the warm weather months. I carry extra water for her, and when possible, look for trails and routes where there is water along the way.
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    in this life has not escaped me." Jim Harrison

  12. #12
    Member MikeB's Avatar
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    Mia, my 2 year old Labradoodle, loves winter hiking (and skijoring). She has lab-like paws (big, webbed toes) but a slightly sparser coat. Single digit temperatures don't seem to be a problem, but I have to keep a close eye to keep her out of open water.

    We use this waxy stuff called "Mushers Secret", rub it into her pads and between the toes (a little goes a long way). It really seems to help prevent snow from balling up, which is probably her biggest source of discomfort. We don't use booties, but I carry some light ones along in case of injury (haven't needed them yet, though).

    Since her coat is more "feathery" than a normal lab I get her forelegs trimmed at the beginning of the season, to help prevent snow clumping up above her paws.

    Our biggest problem is the "tween" seasons when the air temp is cold but there's still a lot of open water and mud on the trails - her legs tend to get encased in tubes of muddy ice. Doesn't seem to bother her until we get back to the car and it starts to melt, I think it must pull uncomfortably on the fur. We try to avoid those situations, but not always successfully... I've been thinking something like doggy gaiters might help - I've never seen such a thing but might try to make some!

  13. #13
    Senior Member una_dogger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeB View Post
    I've been thinking something like doggy gaiters might help - I've never seen such a thing but might try to make some!
    I actually bought a pair last year to keep the ice balls from forming on my Aussie's feathery legs -- they worked ok for a while but then snow and ice began to work its way inside. Let me know if you come up with a better design!
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Mongoose's Avatar
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    Maybe this is obvious but what are the signs your dog is too cold? I assume if it's lethargic or tired that would be a major indication. I can't remember the last time Boone was tired. A 3 hour run behind my bike doesn't tire him out!

  15. #15
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    Shivering is the most obvious sign. On a really cold day put your hand on your dog's ribcage. You can feel a shiver before you'll see it unless it's severe. A cold dog will often huddle near you or tuck up close if you're sitting down.
    "The fact that going off the deep end appears
    to be a requisite to doing anything of consequence
    in this life has not escaped me." Jim Harrison

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