Bringing your four-legged friend(s) on a trip to the winter mountains is amazing. It's no-one who appreciates being on a trip with you like dogs do. However, bringing dogs to the winter mountain requires some planning and thought.
No dogs are alike, and you may want to consider the dog's limitations when deciding where to go.
Here are 5 things you should think about when you are going to bring a dog to the winter mountains:
1. Consider the dog's fitness and know your dog's limitations
Not all breeds can be outside in every weather. Dogs living in dog farms all year round have better potential to sleep outside, as over time, the fur has built up a protective backing. You may want to bring both a cover, paw socks and a Jervenbag if the dog doesn't have enough fur to withstand a cold winter night in the high mountain. Dogs can get frostbite like us humans. The paws are highly exposed, but the balls of the male dogs can also get sore wounds from ice and snow that are attached to the fur. You should therefore find out if the dog can actually sleep outside the tent. If you are unsure, then the answer is no. In that case, you have to bring a tent that allows the dog(s) to sleep inside the tent with you.
Also know the dog's limitations. You don't have to have a sled dog to use the dog for pulling, but if you're planning on using it for pulling the pulk the dog you take with you should be trained in advance. Ask yourself if the dog is well prepared to pull you and the pulk, and how heavily can it pull? If you do not consider this, the dog may suffer severe injury. In addition, you may risk breaking the dog's joy of pulling the pulk. You want to avoid both situations in all possible ways.
Just like humans, dogs need more nutrition and liquids when they are in activity, and this is especially important during winter time. If you plan on giving your dog a different type of food on the trip, in example a high-energy food, this should be planned well in advance. The stomach of the dog will spend some time getting used to a new type of food, and should be well adjusted to the food before the trip starts. By doing this, you will avoid a sick dog who doesn't take up nutrition well.
By doing som preparations and dosing the food for single meals beforehand, you save time during the trip. In addition, this will ease the job of packing and ensure the right amount of food for your dog. Whether you feed with dry food or raw food will impact the preperations. In case of feeding with raw food, you will need to decide whether this is to be served frozen or thawed. Be aware that thawing requires a lot of time, equipment and pack weight, in addition to an axe for chopping.
3. First aid kit
The dog is your partner on the trip, and the health of the dog is to be taken care of at least as carefully as your own. Therefore, be sure to pack any medicines your dog may need. A dedicated first aid kit designed for dogs is perfect for taking on a trip. This should contain all that is necessary in case of an accident. I recommend being creative in the first aid kit. There may be many unforeseen accidents on a trip with dogs, therefore, rather bring to much than too little equipment. In addition, bring a fat paw ointment, as crusted snow quickly can cause unpleasant wounds. Remember that mountain skis with steel edges can create ugly cuts in the dog's paws and legs. Equipment for sewing sterile should therefore be packed. Zinc ointment is another good tip, perfect treating blisters from harnesses and other equipment. You can cut a paw sock, lubricate the blister with a thick layer of zinc ointment, and fasten the paw sock with a sports tape over the wound. Remember to check and treat the wound every day.
Having the right quality equipment for the dog is important when going on a winter trip in the mountains. The most important thing is to test the equipment before heading out. Please test it several times, so you know that the equipment you bring with you has optimal quality for outdoor use in the winter mountain range. Check stitches on pull lines, harnesses and belts before heading out for a long trip. I recommend bringing some spare parts for equipment that you have experience with being vulnerable. In example, it is advisable to have an extra pull line and a small box of needle and thread if something busts. Paw socks disappear easily in the snow and are therefore a consumable product you with a good conscience can bring more of. These weigh nothing, take up very little space, and may be necessary for use on both paws and wounds.
The shelter should be well secured. Should the dog sleep outside the tent, it is important that it is well attached to the pulk or a snow anchor, preferably with chains or ropes. Do not use the pull line as a fastening, as the dog may risk chewing it if it is bored. Not all dogs do this, but it is not worth taking the risk.
5. Consideration for wildlife
The wildlife in the winter mountain isn't necessarily always noticeable. But since you are going to the mountain with a dog, it is advisable to take some precautions. Gain some knowledge about the wildlife in the area to be traveled and what concerns you should take with your dog. In some mountainous areas in Norway we have vulnerable caribous, which must be taken into account. It is important that your dog is properly set up so that it can not get away. Use common sense in the mountains, as you would otherwise. Be aware and always have your dog in sight if you let it run free, especially as many breeds have natural hunting instincts. Dogs running away is undesirable for both people and animals. It is important to keep in mind that we are visiting the mountains, and the animals that live there have the first right in the area.
In general, always be a bit wary, rather than sorry.
Enjoy the mountain with your four-legged and go explore!