A blog by runners. For runners.

Running with dogs: winter edition


As we settle into the long, seemingly never-ending middle of winter, many of us are getting antsy to take an outdoor run. And I’m pretty sure this “some of us” includes our four-legged friends. But with extreme temps and rough roads, the winter weather can be tough on our pups.  Here are a few ways you can keep them safe and happy:

  • One of the biggest obstacles of winter running with dogs is salt. Salted walkways can irritate your dog’s paw pads, leaving them dancing from side to side as if walking over hot coals. In many ways I suppose this is the equivalent. Here are a few tools for protecting your dog’s paw pads:
    1. If your dog will tolerate it, try putting booties on his or her feet. They can work wonders on sensitive paw pads. (More about booties can be found in Running with Dogs: Summer Edition.) That said, many dogs simply refuse to walk in them.
    2. If you have a dog that refuses booties, try Musher’s Secret. It’s a wax-based skin protectant and many owners swear by it. Make sure to coat the bottoms of the paw pads completely, even on the sides and in between the pads for full protection.
    3. If the path you’re running is salted and the snow isn’t too high alongside the path, let your dog run off the beaten path away from the salt. Just make sure there aren’t any hidden objects below the snow like sprinkler heads or large rocks. City parks paths tend to be the best place to do this.
    4. Once you’re home, make sure to wipe down your dog’s feet completely with warm water, removing any excess salt before letting them in the house.
  • Besides salt irritation, be on the look out for signs of frostbite, especially on single digit days. Frostbite is most common on the ears, nose, tail and feet. Look for changes in these areas, such as skin turning pink, gray or blistering. Consult your vet if these changes do not go away on their own with a little warming up.
  • Jackets! Dog jackets are pretty adorable; I find them especially amusing on larger dogs. My dog doesn’t seem to mind wearing his but my dog also never seems cold without it so I’m not sure how much help it is to him. If you’re dog has shorter hair or is smaller, a dog jacket might be helpful for adding an extra layer of warmth.
  • Lastly, winter running can be extra challenging for your dog. Remember to keep them well hydrated and keep an eye on your dog’s weight.  If you put in a lot of outdoor mileage in the cold, they may require a little extra food in the winter months.

Tell us your favorite winter running tips for dogs below.

Written by Lisa Horvath.

More running with dogs