Lynn Gagnon trains dogs in Revelstoke through her business Stoked Dogs. (Contributed)

Lynn Gagnon trains dogs in Revelstoke through her business Stoked Dogs. (Contributed)

Figuring out Fido: Skiing with your dog

Dog training advice from local business owner Lynn Gagnon

Lynn Gagnon

Figuring out Fido

Have you ever wanted to bring your dog skiing?

Skiing with your dog can be a lot of fun and is a great way to give your dog some exercise. If you’ve got a snow loving dog, it can be an incredible way to get them out in one of their favourite environments.

So what are your options and how do you get them started?

The safest way to ski with your dog is to take your dog cross-country skiing.

We’re lucky in Revelstoke since the Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club, which manages the trails at Macpherson, has a designated dog loop where skiers can take their dogs.

But before you show up with your skis, there are a few dos and don’ts to go over.

READ MORE: Figuring out fido: Common positive-reinforcement training mistakes

First, the club has some rules for dogs and these rules must be followed to keep access to these trails going and to manage safety.

Make sure to read all the rules prior to heading out.

The parking lot and first 200 metres of the dog loop are on-leash.

This is important for several reasons.

Firstly, not everyone out there to ski is there to say hi to dogs, and there is a lot of traffic and movements in the parking lot. It’s just not a safe space for an off-leash dog.

The first 200 metres of the loop are also the last 200 metres of the loop, which means you have dogs who have run the entire loop who are tired and ready for the car, and dogs who are just getting started and amped up to go.

The difference in temperaments can lead to conflict. The dog who might have pushed too hard is likely not excited by the prospect of a super excited young dog running up and jumping on them.

There is also now a private driveway which intersects the trail. So please keep your dog on a leash while you’re in the leash-required zone.

It makes life easier for all trail users.

Second, it’s important to assume that other dogs (and people!) don’t want to meet your dog and to plan accordingly.

Many dogs will use the dog loop with their people and some of those dogs are just there to run and chase their people, not to play with all the dogs they meet.

So once you see another user with a dog (or just another skier), shout to find out if their dog wants to say hi and if not, it’s both your jobs to manage a smooth pass.

It might mean quickly leashing your dog if you don’t have full verbal control over them.

So keep that leash accessible (wrapping it a couple times around the waist or shoulder is an easy way to ski with an accessible leash).

Lastly, it’s important to know that not all dogs are ready or built for the ski track.

If your dog is prone to getting snowballs on their feet or stomach, a jacket and some booties (I recommend thin sock booties for compact snow sports) might be necessary.

Musher’s Secret and similar paw balms can also help. Young dogs (under 1-2 years) need extra caution since too much hard exercise can damage their growth plates, which haven’t yet fully developed.

If backcountry is more your thing, I’ve got a couple of tips as well.

First, Glacier National Park is no place for a dog in the winter and off-leash dogs are not permitted in that park.

It goes without saying our dogs do not understand avalanche hazard and the risk they may be taking, so low or no risk options are a fairer option for your snow-loving dog.

The fingers at Macpherson are a popular spot to tour with dogs. If you’re planning to head out, make sure to start with a small trip and see how your dog does.

You’ll also need first aid supplies since paw’s getting sliced by sharp ski edges are a common injury of the powder hound. That also means you could have to carry your dog out, so be prepared.

Bring treats for your dog, reinforce their recall and encourage them to stick to the skin track to reduce exposure.

If skiing is not your thing, snowshoeing is a great alternative to get out with your dog in the winter.

Whatever your choice, have fun, follow the rules and be respectful to other trail users so that everyone has a good time.

Lynn Gagnon is a certified professional dog trainer for Stoked Dogs. She has a BSoc.Sc. and CPDT-KA.