Free Consultation


Hiking with Hounds: Trail Tips for Adventurous Dogs

Hiking with Hounds: Trail Tips for Adventurous Dogs

Powder Hounds and Backcountry Bliss

You’re carving your first turn in fresh, untracked powder and you glance back only to see your best friend barreling down the slopes after you – carving out their own powder line, tongue flopping in the wind, wide-eyed looking at you, as if saying “Mom/Dad, are you seeing this!?”. There’s so much joy in sharing a backcountry adventure with your dog, but there are always inherent risks.

As a veterinarian with a herding breed mix named Pacha, Dr. Taylor Karlin knows a thing or two about navigating the joys and challenges of backcountry skiing with your canine companion. “I grew up in a really outdoorsy family so skiing became part of my life really early on. When I got Pacha, it was an activity I was hoping I could get him into,” she shares.

But introducing your dog to the snow-covered slopes takes careful consideration and preparation. “Definitely listened to the veterinarian’s advice as to when to start training him, I think that’s huge,” Dr. Karlin emphasizes. “With Pacha, I knew his age and also listened to his abilities. When we’re in our outdoorsy mindset we just want to go, go, go and push our dogs into those situations – sometimes too soon and too early.”

Gearing Up for Greatness

Beyond the vet’s guidance, Dr. Karlin has a well-stocked pack of essential gear and equipment to keep Pacha safe and comfortable on the trail. “I carry a first aid kit for humans and I throw in an extra non-adherent pad, gauze, and vet wrap for the dogs. I keep triple antibiotic and cleansing pads too with the human first aid kit,” she explains.

For emergencies, Dr. Karlin relies on a Fido Pro Airlift – a dog emergency rescue sling – “just in case there’s a situation where Pacha really can’t walk out on his own. Any dog that’s over 40 pounds – that’s a lot to carry while you’re skiing.” She also brings along a jacket, musher’s wax for paw protection, and her trusty Rex Specs dog goggles for UV and debris shielding.

“I started using Rex Specs a year ago and they’re awesome. For UV protection – especially on sunny days, that snow is so reflective and so bright. Also for the powder and keeping the eyes safe from ice and anything else in the terrain. I use them not only for skiing but for hiking and biking too, where he needs sun protection and protection from dirt spraying in his eyes as well.”

Training Tails

Of course, proper gear is only half the battle. Dr. Karlin put in the time and effort to meticulously train Pacha to be her perfect powder-loving sidekick. “I started with hiking – just getting him out on trails, getting him fit that way. We would run together, I got him behind a mountain bike so that he was used to following me off leash and I was on something,” she explains.

Once Pacha had mastered the art of trail running, Dr. Karlin slowly introduced him to the snow. “The first big step was getting him used to moving in snow. Snow is much more challenging for them to run through, especially if it’s deep. Getting him out there and getting him used to the concept of having him run through powder and making it a fun activity for him first.”

Months of building up Pacha’s confidence on cross-country ski trails finally culminated in backcountry adventures. “I first built him up to skiing by cross country skiing. Short, mellow terrain that was pretty flat with low miles so that he got used to being around skis and learning that awareness. Once he was more comfortable with cross country trails, I slowly built up the miles and vertical that we were doing – more actual backcountry trails.”

Throughout their training, Dr. Karlin reinforced key commands like “front”, “behind”, and “off” to ensure Pacha maintained proper trail etiquette and awareness of her ski equipment. “He always wanted to be right on my heels and didn’t understand the concept of having a ski behind me and having to leave that distance. So he would often step on the back of my skis.”

Safety First, Fun a Close Second

While the joys of backcountry adventuring with your canine companion are plentiful, Dr. Karlin emphasizes the importance of prioritizing safety. “Yes, for sure. The biggest concern is that they can get cut by the edges of skis, so that’s why it’s important to train them to give you that space when you’re going downhill or when you step out of your skis when climbing,” she warns.

Other common injury risks include orthopedic strains and tears, as well as cold-weather issues like frozen paws and hypothermia. “Keeping their paw pads warm and comfortable enough is also a concern, as well as just keeping their bodies warm enough,” Dr. Karlin advises.

She also cautions against venturing into avalanche terrain, regardless of your dog’s skill level. “I’ve personally made the decision that I do not want my dog in avalanche terrain. So if what we have planned is going anywhere near avalanche terrain, I’m not going to bring a dog just because that adds so much risk to the situation.”

The Ruff Road Ahead

Despite the inherent risks, Dr. Karlin remains enthusiastic about the boundless possibilities of exploring the outdoors with her canine companion. “I think my biggest goal with him is to get him out there enjoying it – myself too. I don’t want to push him too hard, I worry about the risks and take those into account more than anything.”

One exciting prospect on the horizon is training Pacha in avalanche rescue techniques – “not to take him into that terrain, but I think it would be a really cool skill to develop. It would be awesome for both of us together to take on learning that and doing that training. He is a dog that just loves to have a dog and is super smart and motivated, so I think it would be a really fun challenge for both of us.”

So if you and your furry friend are dreaming of carving fresh powder and conquering snowy summits, take inspiration from Dr. Karlin and Pacha’s journey. With proper preparation, the right gear, and a healthy dose of patience, you too can embark on unforgettable winter adventures. Just remember to stay safe, have fun, and be sure to tag I Have Dogs in all your powder-filled exploits!

Tags :
Share This :

Get Updates with our



Join our passionate community of dog lovers. Embrace the journey of companionship with Ihavedogs, where every dog gets the best of care and love.