Dogs and Ice
It would seem that taking your dog on an ice trip is a good way to exercise your dog and let you enjoy some time on the ice. Most of the time it works out but, in the big picture, dogs on ice can be bad news. I have two good friends who fell through the ice rescuing their dogs. Dogs have no sense about ice thickness and little sense about open water. They have a strong desire to go after ducks and follow their nose to places they shouldn’t go. Once they are in the water they are even less able to get out on their own than humans are.
If your dog goes in, the advice from our local Rescue team is to call 911 immediately. Stay on shore to keep track of where your dog is so you can guide the rescue team to the closest access point. Don’t try to rescue it yourself. If the ice did not hold up your dog it will not come close to holding you (even if you are crawling on your stomach). Most would be rescuers fall through and usually are rescued by professionals. Rescuing a dog owner significantly delays and distracts the rescuing of the dog. Another even better reason to stay off the ice is it will be hard to explain to your spouse and children that their beloved pet drowned but it will be much more difficult for them to reconcile loosing you if you die trying to save the dog. The emotionally driven impulse to attempt to save a pet has killed many people over the years.
If you do take the dog for an ice walk in spite of the above, a leash and good foot traction are recommended as well as staying on ice that you already know well. Of course, ice claws, a test pole, life jackets and a throw rope should be taken by anyone going out on the ice.
If you are walking your dog in an area where there might be ice on nearby lakes, ponds, streams or rivers a leash is a good idea. Most ice sheets have weak ice somewhere, especially when the ice is new or during and after a warm spell or in the spring. Most dog breakthroughs occur with leashless dogs.