For humans, winter sports are often a source of relaxation and rejuvenation. But depending on your temperament, these holidays can also be very sporting. For dogs, winter sports are fun: they generally love the snow, even if small dogs and those without a lot of hair get cold quickly… So, if you’re wondering how to have fun with your dog and what snow sports you can share with him, here are our suggestions.
Suggestion number 1: the walk
Is walking a sport? Some people might make fun of it. However, riding in powder snow without a snowshoe is a sport. It requires great muscular effort to move forward when the legs sink deep into the snow cover. And no doubt that your four-legged friend, even if he has two extra limbs, will quickly become exhausted as well.
Also, it is probably wiser to consider a walk along marked and groomed paths, including some detours punctual off-trail trips, to go rolling with your dog in the fresh snow, and play sending him snowballs that he will sometimes look for long before admitting that he has lost him in the white vastness.
Suggestion number 2: Sledding
No, the sled is not just for kids! However, if you want to go sledding with your dog, you won’t be able to take advantage of the pay trails that are increasingly flourishing in the resorts. You’ll have to improvise and find quiet corners, often after the slopes have closed. Moreover, sledding can only be practised with your dog if you respect certain rules. There is no question of improvising a tobogganing session, holding the straps of the sled with one hand and the leash of your dog with the other. You need to invest in suitable equipment that allows the dog to pull without injury. The acquisition of such equipment is in any case not lost as it will allow you to practice other sports outside of winter sports. It is on the one hand a harness “xback”, a dog traction harness that conforms to the shape of the dog’s body by forming an X on the back to distribute the traction forces. On the other hand, it is what is known as a “line” which serves to absorb tension and thus protect you and your dog.
If the space in which you live allows it, i.e. essentially if the place is not very busy, you can also let your dog run freely beside you. But make sure by a few tests beforehand that he is able to obey as well as usual. His safety and that of others is at stake: if he becomes too crazy from the excitement of the snow and becomes disobedient, you should not leave him loose. As for you, it goes without saying that you have to control your sled: you must be able to brake effectively if your dog passes in front of you, so as not to injure him.
Suggestion number 3: Skijoering
Behind this deliciously Swedish name is the idea of cross-country skiing linked to your dog by a line: it’s the same equipment as for sledding. The distance of the line must take into account the length of the skis. It goes without saying that you should not consider starting cross-country skiing with your dog. You must be comfortable.
What can be done on a cross-country ski run (check with the local tourist office to make sure that dogs are not forbidden) is not possible on a downhill ski run. The only dogs you’ll see are those of piste-takers or ski-lift pole-vaulters: at the closing of the pistes, when skiers are scarce, you may see a skier running out with a dog leaping beside him, or a snowmobile in whose trailer a dog is solidly camped on its legs.
The most seasoned skiers who want to ski downhill with their dogs will turn to off-piste skiing for what is called cross-country skiing. It’s not just a question of level: you also need to know the mountain, its dangers and its areas to be preserved. This practice is known to be dangerous and the mountain relief can be a trap for those who do not know the area like the back of their hand.
Suggestion number 4: the trottiski
The trottiski is a scooter on which the wheels have been replaced by two skis and which can therefore slide on snow. Your dog is harnessed to it and tows you. This can be done on a deserted road or a dog sled track. Find out beforehand if it is a private road or if you can use the trail.
This is probably the only real dog traction sport on the list: its practice requires your dog to respond quickly to simple commands such as stop, left, right, etc., like sled dogs. You can reach a nice speed in a straight line. Your dog must therefore be in good physical condition, even if you can help him by pushing with one leg like on a classic scooter.
Our tips to make snow sports go better
The winter sports resorts act so that pedestrians can move about safely. Their weapon against frost and anything that can make them slip: salt. Effective in melting ice, it can be problematic for your dog’s paw pads. This salt is usually mixed with chemicals and sand that can be irritating to the underside of a dog’s paws. They can even create burns.
The best prevention is to rinse his paws with warm soapy water after each walk. Don’t wait for him to lick his paws as he could ingest these chemicals and become ill. Avoid making a coconut oil-based repairing balm. Don’t wait for injuries to get worse before seeking veterinary advice, as treatment differs depending on whether your dog has burns, cracks or open wounds.
Although there is plenty of snow, mountain air is generally dry. It is important for your dog that you always have water available for him to drink. If you think he will eat snow if he is thirsty, this is not wrong, but it will expose you to unnecessary problems. Ingesting snow can be more or less disruptive to his intestines.
Finally, think about increasing your daily food intake. This is essential to satisfy his needs caloriesThis is necessarily increased due to the cold (his body expends more energy to maintain a satisfactory temperature) and activities (winter sports holidays are often among the most active and strenuous).