Dog-walking as an extreme winter sport

Most people don’t think of walking a dog as being a particularly strenuous workout. Generally, neither do I. Come winter, however, it’s a whole other story.

To understand why, you first have to meet Charlie.


Charlie is a four-year-old mix of German shepherd, great Dane, and husky. This means that Charlie is big (all 127 pounds of him), and that he’s energetic. He also loves the cold, so no matter how low our temperatures go, he needs to get in a daily run so that he doesn’t drive us all nuts pacing the house. Because I somehow got myself elected Chief Dog Walker, the task of taking him out in all weathers falls to me. During the summer, it couldn’t be easier: slip into shoes, grab the leash, and head for the door. At minus 30-something Celsius (roughly the same on the Fahrenheit scale), it’s a little more complicated…and it takes a whole lot more energy. Here’s what a typical walk looks like:

The Warm-up

Time: 20 minutes

This entails donning multiple layers of clothing: long underwear, pants, and snow pants; turtleneck and sweater; two pairs of socks; winter boots, winter coat, scarf, and hat; and at the more extreme temperatures, gloves inside my mittens. By the time I’m ready, I’ve already worked up a sweat, Charlie has curled up on the floor and dozed off, and I weigh roughly 40 lbs more than I did when I started.

The Commute

Time: 10 minutes

Charlie loves nothing more than a good romp through the woods. Fortunately, I do too. We have two off-leash dog parks within easy access to our home, both of which offer awesome trails. Driving there while dressed up to resemble the Michelin Tire Man, however, can be challenging and is a mini-workout in itself.

The Walk


p style=”text-align: center;”>Time: 40-50 minutes

When we arrive at the trail, Charlie races off, crashing through the underbrush. Still packing that extra 40 lbs of clothing–and with oxygen intake at half-capacity because of the scarf double-wrapped around my face–I set off at a lumberingly brisk walk, fast enough to (hopefuly) avoid freezing solid before the end of the trail. Depending on conditions, I might wade through knee-deep powder, stagger and slip across uneven ice, or slog through wet, heavy drifts. (With his four-paw drive and long legs, Charlie doesn’t seem to notice the difference.)

By the time we’re done, I’m decidedly out of breath, various body parts are overheated and others are devoid of feeling, my eyelashes have frozen together because of the moisture from my breath, and I’m ready for a nap.

And Charlie? He’s ready to go around the trail again!




Subscribe to my blog


8 responses to “Dog-walking as an extreme winter sport”

  1. JP McLean Avatar

    I’m tired just reading about it.

    1. Linda Avatar

      I think the cold makes me as tired as the exercise does, JP…but at least I’m getting exercise! 😉

  2. Carol Avatar

    Oh…..such a very good, loving dog owner. Charlie is a lucky puppy and I know he loves you for it. I am kind of chuckling on the image I have of Stay Puff Marshmallow Linda plowing through the snow and ice.

    1. Linda Avatar

      Chuckle away, Carol…I’m pretty sure I look as funny as it sounds! 😀

  3. Diane Avatar

    Glad I have a cat, he doesn’t like freezing and tons of snow so just watches from the windowsill.

    1. Linda Avatar

      You definitely have it made over me right now, Diane! 😉

  4. mangamaniaccafe Avatar

    I have been cheating and taking my pups to day care. I do go riding in this weather, which requires the same prep, with the addition of handwarmers in every pocket. It’s not much fun, though, so I give you credit for taking Charlie out every day!

    1. Linda Avatar

      Well…every second day, anyway. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *