These Boots Were Made for Walking

Susan Snider  –  Sweetie B Petwear

Marilyn Monroe once said “give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.”

If you apply this sentiment to dogs, it could more accurately be said “give a dog the right shoes and he can enjoy a brisk winter walk.”

There’s a lot of misconception around dogs and shoes. Many people walk by our dog bootie display shaking their heads and muttering rather smugly, “who would do that to their poor dog” or “people shouldn’t treat their dogs like people … they don’t need shoes”.

Others might unknowingly make an off handed, albeit uninformed remark like “they’re dogs, they were made for outside”, or “it’s not natural to put anything on their feet”. You may even feel defensive if you get strange looks from passersby, who make no secret that they’re thinking you’re cruel and dressing up your dog for your own fleeting amusement.

However, depending on where you live, your dog might not only need shoes, but in some cases it can truly be a caring and loving thing to provide for him. Plus, although dog shoes and boots can certainly look stylish and cute, there are lots of good reasons to consider boots for your dog.

If you live in any place that gets really cold and snows, you’ve most likely experienced your dog refusing to go out or wincing in pain as their sensitive little feet touched the ice or the ice melting salt that seems to be hoarded on nearby sidewalks to melt the ice.

Ice melting salt will burn your dog’s foot pads. It contains chloride, which is highly acidic and painful when your dog steps on it.

Other dogs get either the salt chunks or ice bits stuck between their toes.

If your dog has long hair on its paws, particularly between its toes, keeping the fur clipped short will reduce the amount of snowballs that stick between them. But even the ice itself is harsh on their feet. Imagine stepping out onto your neighborhood ice rink in your bare feet … a good pair of dog boots can provide protection from all of these things, if your dog accepts them. Even in the frigid Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the rules state that mushers must carry “eight booties for each dog in the sled.”

Boots with treads on the bottom can also help steady him on wet, icy surfaces.

While some dogs have a thick coat and are more comfortable in cold weather, many smaller breeds and short haired dogs get cold more easily. If you’ve ever seen your dog shivering outside, limping, or even refusing much loved walks, you might be wondering if it’s time to try out some winter clothing to make him more comfortable, such as coats or boots.

Ice melting salt will burn your dog’s foot pads. It contains chloride, which is highly acidic and painful when your dog steps on it.

So you’ve decided to give them a try. Granted you dog doesn’t know why you’re putting them on him at first. Is it a cast … a foot brace … or are you just teasing him? But gradually, a few trips outside will help him understand that you’ve actually helped him get back to enjoying his walks again even in the cold.

You might also need to spend some time with your dog to gradually desensitize him to the feeling of wearing boots. One way to do this is to try them for short periods of time indoors first, and give lots of reward and praise when your dog accepts wearing them. You can also try putting the boots only on the front paws inside the house and letting him walk around to get used to the new sensation. While boots and shoes are not painful for dogs, some dogs need time to get used to them and make the connection that even though there’s something on their feet, they can still walk just fine.

While you’ll most often see the booties being worn in winter, it’s more than salt can hurt your dog’s paws. Infections or feet irritations can tempt some dogs to lick their feet, making the irritant even worse. Shoes or socks can help prevent this. Hot asphalt can also weak havoc on their paws, especially on rough surfaces or areas with broken glass, nails or other debris.

While booties can solve some of these foot issues for your dog, there are a few things to keep in mind before you let him wear them for hours at a time. Dogs’ sweat glands are located in their foot pads. So, you should always make sure to give your dog a break and take them off for air every few hours, especially during long hikes.

If your dog stubbornly resists boots, you know what I mean, playing statue, refusing to move, kicking their paws up backwards or other antics showing you his displeasure, try putting the boots on for five minutes a day, combining them with playtime, and then gradually work your way up to longer walks. Since the boots are meant to help your dog get back to enjoying his walks outside in inclement weather, it’s well worth the extra effort to try to help him accept wearing boots.

Obviously, if your dog shows no signs of displeasure walking outside in winter, your area is not coated at each snowfall with salt and your dog isn’t shivering, limping or lifting his paws, there is likely no need for any additional protection. However, for those dogs that aren’t amused by these elements in winter, boots can offer many dogs much needed paw protection.

It’s also important to be sure your dog is wearing the correct size shoes or boots. If not, they will either fall off during walks and you’ll return home missing a boot or two, or your dog will find a way to get them off. Many paw parents new to the world of booties think their dog’s feet are bigger than they are, so they get sizes that will most certainly disappear during walks. The fluffier the fur, the more deceptive the paw size can be.

Think about your dog’s feet when they’re soaking wet after a walk in the rain or a bath. Much skinnier, right? That’s the true size of his feet. The fur can simply be gathered up (like a human ponytail) within the boot and tucked under the tongue of the boot, so it’s important to pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommended sizing for dogs of a certain weights and sizes. Of course, there are always exceptions to these sizing guidelines. Guidelines are just guides and a dog’s paws are as unique as your dog.

The best way to check the correct size is before you even check whether your dog is walking properly in the boots, make sure his feet are properly tucked in at the bottom front the boot.

Some of the most common reasons boots fall off are that they were never really on the foot properly to start or that they are too big! This point cannot be stressed enough so it’s important to test the boots inside your home before venturing outdoors in them.

As soon as you put the boots on, do them up tightly for a snug, secure fit. Then gently try to pull each one off your dog’s feet. Don’t force them off or tug them, just give them a gentle pull to see if they stay on. A good rule of thumb is if you can pull them off, your dog can get them off.

If you are able to pull them off, first open them back up to ensure the foot is positioned at the bottom front of the boot correctly. If it is, then do them up again as snugly and securely as possible and try again to pull them off. If you can still pull them off, the boot is too big for your dog. Not only will it be uncomfortable, unnecessary and “luggy” for your dog, it will most certainly fall off while walking. If you want your dog’s boot experience to be successful, you’ll simply need to exchange the size for a smaller one. Once you do, try the whole fitting process again.

With a little practice and effort, wearing the right boots that fit properly can really help your dog to be more comfortable walking outside in any weather, on any common surface. Putting boots on and taking them off will take much less time once you’re both accustomed to it, and you’ll see in no time that a hike, a walk in the streets or just around the corner can be so much more enjoyable for both of you.

Of course, none of this information is a substitute for solid veterinary advice. For more serious questions about your dog’s paw, please consult your veterinarian.