Winter Snowball Prevention by Team Alaska
Updated: Dec 19, 2022
Winter is upon us, and with that hopefully comes the snow that many of us love about living in the mountains. We have all seen the joy on a dog’s face as it tears around, rolls in, or bounds through the cool, white fluffy stuff that we all enjoy. What some dogs don’t realize, however, is that sometimes snow, especially fresh or drier snow, is more than they bargained for when it starts to clump on to their hair or fur. Most short-coated dogs and many Northern breeds and double-coated dogs have little to no issues with snow sticking to them. However, dogs with fine fur or hair, especially curly hair, often can literally be weighed down as snow sticks to them and accumulates in ever growing snowballs. Hair that gets wet and saturated unfortunately also does little to insulate and keep your dog warm and content. In this article we cover a few techniques to help care for dogs and allow them enjoy their time in the snow.
One way to keep snow from sticking to a dog is to apply something slippery that prevents accumulation. We have had success with a silicone spray called ShowSheen. For paws, we have also seen waxes such as Musher’s Secret do the trick. Another option to prevent snow from sticking to your dog is to limit the surface contact of fur that can build up snow. This might be done by trimming the fur or hair, or by protecting the dog’s fur from direct contact with the snow. We have seen full-body snowsuits and mushing dog booties in action, and so far the results for keeping a dog snowball-free are impressive. Here are some of our tips and tricks for various snow protection options. At the end, we offer thoughts to help you choose what might be best for you and your dog.
ShowSheen success tips
Use for 2-3 days during or immediately after fresh snowfall
Apply in a bathtub, garage, driveway or on a towel or other surface that won’t get slippery from the spray
Focus on all 4 legs, paws as well as on belly, groin, chest and armpit fur.
The goal is to coat each and every hair/ fur with silicone so that it is slick and snow won’t stick to it and form snowballs. Use a brush after you apply and really comb it in to the fur.
If your dog jumps away from the spray or to make application easier, spray into your palm and then massage into their fur. This works really well on the legs and paws.
You may have a paw wax (like Musher’s Secret) that you use on your dog’s pads to keep them from cracking and drying out. You can also use that ointment and massage it into the fur between their toes, around their pads, and in the webbing between their toes both on the top and bottom of their paws. Just like ShowSheen, the goal is to coat every hair/ fur and prevent snow from sticking and forming ice or snowballs.
Keep their hair cut short
If ShowSheen or wax is not working for you and your dog, trimming their hair/fur or having your dog groomed short may be a good addition or option:
LEGS: Trim long hair, especially curly hair, and feathery fur on the backs of all 4 legs with blunt tipped scissors. It is the fine fur or hairs that allow snowballs to form so keep them cut short for winter.
PAWS: Use blunt tipped scissors to trim the long, feathery fur between the toes on the top and on the bottom between the pads. This will help prevent snowballs from forming on their feet.
GROOMING: For breeds like Goldens, Aussies and Doodles ask the groomer to trim leg and paw fur short in winter. Keeping their hair longer in winter on their legs and bellies will not add extra warmth when it is wet or snowy- it will actually keep them colder as they get saturated.
Alternative to ShowSheen and Paw Wax
For protection against snow that balls up on a dog’s fur or hair, especially on breeds with curly hair that gets wet and snow balls easily, we recommend a suit with full belly protection.
We have seen the Non-stop snow protector suits in action on several Buddy dogs in the snow this year and we have been impressed with what we have seen. The fabric is very stretchy and allows for easy freedom of movement for the dog to run and play.https://www.nonstopdogwear.com/en/product/protector-snow/
Follow the measurement instructions on their website to make sure you order the right size and leg length for your dog.
The grip on the ankles is excellent and truly holds the coat in place so it doesn’t get pushed up the legs by their legs plunging into snow.
If you are using booties put those on first and then pull the snow suit on over them. The booties will make it easier to get the suit over your dog’s paws and the suit will hold the booties in place making it less likely for them to pull off in deep snow.
If you aren’t using booties, you can put a plastic bag over your dog’s paw as you put it through the leg of the suit to help it slide easier over their fur. Then pull the bag off and use it for the next paw until all 4 legs are done.
The Non-stop snow protector suit is one of the few suits that actually provides needed belly protection while still allowing dogs to freely pee or poop while wearing the suit.
If you order a suit for your dog make sure you choose either the male or female pee opening to make sure your dog can comfortably relieve themselves while wearing it. The openings are in different places.
The fabric is not insulated so your dog is not likely to overheat in it. The primary purpose of the suit is to keep the dog fur dry and protected from snowballs. Dogs (especially breeds with curly hair rather than fur) will stay warmer because their coat will stay drier inside the suit.
The Canada Pooch Slush Suit is an option for very small dogs that are too tiny to fit in the Non-stop suit. The disadvantage of this suit is that the fabric is not stretchy like the Non-stop and the leg openings are not held in place as well. Correct measurements are very important to get this suit to fit without being too tight or too loose since the fabric does not stretch. In addition, this suit does not provide as much coverage on the belly, inner thigh nor the hind end as the Non-stop suit does. This snowsuit is not as effective as the Non-stop but a good option if your dog is under 10 pounds and can’t fit in a Non-stop.
Other coats and suits:
On Buddy outings, most dogs are plenty active and can generate enough heat to stay warm. If your dog has an extremely short or thin coat with no undercoat, they may benefit from a more insulated snow suit/ coat when they are not active. Keep in mind that fleecy fabrics tend to gather and hold wet snow. These coats will just leave your dog with cold, wet fleece against their skin. If your dog needs a coat on really cold days, choose a belly fabric that won’t gather snow as your dog walks, runs, plays, or rolls in it.
If your dog really struggles with snowballs forming between their toes even after you have trimmed the long feathery fur and used paw ointment and/or ShowSheen on their paw fur, you may need to use some properly fitted booties. The style used for sled dogs are proven to work and stay on a dog’s feet when properly put on. They have been trail tested in snow by hundreds of thousands of sled dogs and others. Booties are for protecting the paw, NOT for keeping it warm. This is a thin, flexible fabric that still allows the dog to feel the ground under its feet. It protects them from ice balls building between their toes or allows cracked pads and splits in the webbing to be protected and heal faster.
There are many companies that make the type of booties we recommend (see a few links below). You will want to order a spare set of booties as they might come off if your dog spends a lot of time running through deep, heavy Sierra snow.
Soooo, which is the best option?
It depends on what works best for you, your dog, and your situation. You might be able to mix and match the different body/leg and paw methods to achieve the greatest success in providing your dog the care they deserve so they can maximize their fun in the snow.
ShowSheen and/ or paw wax requires more time and energy spraying, brushing, and applying to truly coat your dog’s legs, belly and paw fur. It needs to be applied regularly and thoroughly to have maximum effectiveness (it still will never repel 100% of snowballs). However, it is less expensive than a snowsuit and easier to do well in advance if you have to leave your dog at home alone for an extended amount of time before their Buddy outing. Bonus, your dog smells lovely and has an extra soft and shiny coat from the spray and brushing. ShowSheen may leave a residue on surfaces where you spray so you need to apply it in an easy to clean location. Many dogs will promptly try to lick any paw wax off of their toes so you can’t put it on too far in advance of your dog heading outdoors. In addition, some paw waxes may leave a residue on your floors.
NonStop Snow Protector Suit and/ or booties. Snowsuits seem to work really well. The snowsuit is fairly easy to put on just a few minutes before your dog gets picked up for their outing. Booties can be more challenging to apply until you master the technique. However, dogs should not be left unattended wearing a snowsuit (or booties) or they may chew/ eat them which can cause dangerous blockages (not to mention the expense of replacing the suit). The snowsuit may get damaged by your dog running through brush. Booties can fall off in deep snow and may need to be replaced. Booties will eventually get small holes from dog nails (nails need to be kept trimmed short) and/ or abrasive surfaces and will eventually need to be replaced.
Whichever method you choose, your dog will thank you for making them as comfortable as possible when they head out to play in the Sierra snow.