Ice safety tips for winter dog walkers

Safety first when out with your dog this winter
Digging in the snow. Photo by John Fitts.

No matter the time of year, the dog still needs to be walked each day.  This simplest of tasks may be more dangerous then most folks think in the winter months.  Ice, snow and freezing temperatures make it more important than ever to take precautions when walking in the winter.

It has become an all too frequent news story in the winter months--someone falls through the ice rescuing a pet that is either running free or breaks from its leash.  First and foremost, make sure your pet is on a proper leash and is not able to break free and run out onto ponds, rivers or the ocean.  These simple precautions may make the difference between a brisk January walk and tragedy.

For ice safety in general, the Truro Police Deparment has released the following ice safety tips:

  • Never go onto the ice alone.  A friend may be able to rescue you or go for help if you fall through the ice.
  • Always keep your pets on a leash.  If a pet falls through the ice do not attempt to rescue your pet, go for help.
  • New ice is usually stronger than old ice.  As ice ages, the bond between the crystals decays, making it weaker, even if melting has not occurred.
  • Beware of ice covered with snow.  Snow can insulate ice and keep it strong, but can also insulate it to keep it from freezing. Snow can also hide cracks, weak and open ice.
  • Slush is a danger sign, indicating that ice is no longer freezing from the bottom and can be weak or deteriorating. 
  • Ice formed over flowing water (rivers or lakes containing a large number of springs) is generally 15% weaker.
  • Ice seldom freezes or thaws at a uniform rate.  It can be one foot thick in one spot and be only one inch thick 10 feet away. 
  • Reach-Throw-Go.  If a companion falls through the ice and you are unable to reach that person from shore, throw them something (rope, jumper cables, tree branch, etc.). If this does not work, go for help before you also become a victim. Get medical assistance for the victim immediately.
  • If you fall in, try not to panic. Turn toward the direction you came from.  Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, working forward by kicking your feet.  Once out, remain lying on the ice (do not stand) and roll away from the hole. Crawl back to your tracks, keeping your weight distributed until you return to solid ice.

By following safety procedures, you can be safe and enjoy the many winter activities offered by the great outdoors.


(Sources: Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Colorado State Parks Department, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

Tips courtesy of the Truro Police Department. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on