Top Tips for Winter Adventures with Your Dog

How to Prepare + What to Bring

Getting out on a morning skin with my dog Fern sets the stage for a wonderful day; as the sun comes over the mountains that form around Minturn, warm, pink light rebounds off the freshly snowcapped trees on Meadow Mountain making the whole world sparkle. Gratitude takes over — gratitude for our Valley, the world around us, and for my dog who I’ve built a strong relationship with.

Bringing your dog into outdoor spaces ensures they have an enriching life, but what is most important is understanding the responsibility that comes along with it. Not jumping on strangers, approaching other dogs without permission or chasing wildlife are necessary skills before having fun outdoors. I’m a dog nerd and my dog is my best friend. I want her to be with me as often as she can be and, to make this feasible, many hours of training and dedication has been expended to reach this goal.

Author with dog

Author with her dog Fern. Photo courtesy of Laura Mills.

When an email came across my inbox mentioning a Utah-based dog trainer who focuses her training on adventuring with dogs in the wild, I jumped at the opportunity to connect. Molly Avrin’s training journey started at a young age with a strong love of animals, from playing around with her family dog to riding horses, animals have always been a draw for her. One day while at the horse barn, a stray dog began to come around. After searching for his family for months and coming up empty handed, Avrin adopted this dog and lovingly named him Pete — the namesake for her training business Pete’s Adventure Pack.

Her connection with training progressed and she began working with a local rescue, learning from the staff and eventually helping families with newly adopted dogs adjust to their new life. In 2021, Avrin went full-time with her business working with clients to build strong bonds with their dogs, with the end goal of guiding them to a fulfilling — and safe — life of adventure.

A unique element to Avrin’s offerings that piqued my interest and made her training accessible to many is her Adventure Dog Channel. On this platform, Avrin compiles a wide variety of videos teaching us step-by-step on how to train our dog. From the basics, to bringing a new dog into your home, transitioning your dog to off-leash, skiing, camping — there are how-to’s on almost everything. This library of information opens up a whole new world with a very approachable monthly membership fee.

When I sat down with Avrin after we mutually geeked out on our love of dogs, we talked about the nitty gritty and what steps people can take to transition their dog into safely recreating in the outdoors with them.

Where to Start — Introducing the Concept of a “Safe Spot”

“Before you get into biking, skiing, camping, everything starts with leash work and being on leash.” Avrin explains.

This command can be taught by guiding the dog into the desired position with a leash and rewarding using verbal praise and/or treats. As the command is practiced more, the dog eventually understands the expectation. Avrin has detailed videos about this concept on her page but reminds us all that practice and consistency is key.

Many people in the dog training world know the “safe spot” Avrin describes as a loose heel. This is the idea that the dog stays on your left or right side when asked. “When we pass somebody on trail, the dog is able to come at my side and pass in the safe spot. Not only for the other people’s safety but also for my dog’s safety.” says Avrin.

“Whenever I’m moving, the dog is in the safe spot,” she adds. “When I stop, which I call ‘adventure time’  the dog can be released to sniff pending no people being around. Then I will recall them back and when we start moving, again they will be back in the safe spot.”

Next Steps — Off-Leash Adventures + Choosing Your Battles

Once your dog can execute the command of being in their heel/safe spot, can recall to you reliably and understands the expectations given, you can introduce off-leash life where appropriate. An important component in this is knowing when and where it is safe to have your dog off leash. A busy trail on a Saturday packed with unpredictable dogs and people? Maybe not. Meadow Mountain on a calm Monday morning with minimal people around? That sounds better! We want to make it easy for our dogs to succeed, in some cases this means finding another trail or cutting an adventure short. Just as we identify if the conditions are safe to proceed with our human activities, assessing the safety of the environment for our dogs is crucial in their development and making the experience fun for all.

After the Adventure — Decompression Time

“Teaching your dog the basics of crate training or place work and having that shut off time after activity is just as important as exercising your dog,” Avrin explains. Having a dog that is constantly pacing after you have just taken them on a five-mile adventure creates frustration for all. A perk of a dog with an active lifestyle is their endurance building over time, which is wonderful — but it is also important to guide your dog through the routine of relaxation as well. In Avrin’s experience, this is an issue she finds clients dealing with a lot — how to make a dog relax. The repetition and routine of guided relaxation (“place” command or crate training) creates this habit for the dog and they begin to understand this is what comes after an outdoor adventure.

Molly Arvin with dogs

Photos courtesy of Molly Avrin


Adventure Dog Must-Haves

First Aid Kit

Just as you should always bring a first aid kit for humans, one for dogs is important too! This one is a great option. Make sure to include Kwik Stop Styptic Powder in your kit, this is crucial for nail splits/bleeding and minor cuts.

Water + Water Bowl

Even in the cooler months hydration is important! Silicone collapsable dog bowls make it easy to keep your dog hydrated on the go and they pack down small. Here is a pack of two that can clip on to your pack easily.


These treats from Mountain Wild are made from excess venison and elk dried in a jerky form. No additives, fillers or other junk! They are also high value which can be very helpful when training your dog. These are trainer Molly Avrin’s favorite!

Poop Bags

This dispenser from Earth Rated is refillable and can be clipped on the outside of your backpack for easy access but to also hold the full bags. They sell bags separately or in a bundle!

Paw Protection

There are two ways to go here! Musher’s Secret Paw Wax is an all-natural paw balm made from food-safe oils and waxes. This protects your dog’s paws from drying and cracking, forming snow balls, wearing down on rough terrain and much more. Or you can opt for Low Profile Dog Booties from Non-Stop Dogwear. Some dogs and their owners prefer to start the adventure with the booties already on. For rough terrain I would do the same, but if your dog generally doesn’t have an issue with the terrain of the current season, these are a great item to have in your pack for emergencies or if their paws simply get too cold.