Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 13, 2014

If The Shoe Fits

Posted at 10:06AM - Comments: (10)

The Arctic weather plaguing much of the country wreaks havoc with our dogs, too. Paws get frozen quickly in temperatures like these. Snow between your dog’s foot pads can cause frostbite and lameness, and crusted snow and ice can easily cut his feet. Trim the excess hair from the footpads and toes of longhaired dogs; this will make it easier to remove ice and snow.

Better yet, use booties for the best foot protection. Don’t be disappointed if your dog high-steps around in protest when you put them on; most dogs resist booties at first, but they typically quickly desensitize to the footwear when a fun outing is on the horizon. A variety of windproof and waterproof coats for your dog are available on the market and worth looking into if your dog has a very short coat, doesn’t do well in cold temperatures, or you plan on making frequent stops during your outing.

Your local pet supply store may have cold-weather gear for dogs – and if they have good stuff, bless their hearts. It’s far more common to see “dress up” booties that are supposed to be cute but are useless in real world conditions. Active canine winter gear found on skijoring or mushing websites or outlets that specialize in equipment for human-canine athletic teams who participate in winter sports is the best bet. Their equipment is usually field-tested in severe conditions – a good testimony to the durability and function of the products.

Due to the fringe nature of most of these sports, most companies that sell such specialized equipment are small businesses owned and operated by enthusiasts of these sports; these folks tend to welcome interest in the products they offer and will be incredibly helpful in guiding you to what you need. A few good sites to explore include:


Various companies gauge their boot sizes differently. Some measure from the heel of the pad to the tip of the toe, others include the toenail length in the size (probably a more appropriate measure, since not accounting for the nail could put excess pressure on the toes). A few brands measure size by the dog’s weight – in our opinion, an inaccurate system of measurement, since a dog’s weight can vary although his foot size does not.

Anyone who has ever struggled to put shoes on a baby (it’s pointless, but fashionable!) will immediately understand the challenge inherent in putting boots on dogs: They don’t have a clue that a little pushing down movement with their feet would make your job a million times easier. Fortunately, with a little practice, you get better at getting the boots on quickly. Just watch out for those dewclaws, if your dog has them.

Dogs are unaccustomed to having something attached to their feet, so don’t be alarmed if your canine pal acts like his legs are broken when you first try his boots on him. It can be amusing to watch your dog try to walk without putting his feet down. One of our dogs tried to take several steps while holding both hind legs off the ground. (It didn’t work.)

Your dog should quickly adapt to the strangeness of shoes on his feet and begin to walk normally again. Be sure to administer plenty of treats when you put boots on paws so your dog learns to happily anticipate their application. If he always wears his boots when he goes for a hike, they will become a reliable predictor of great times, and he will get as excited about seeing them in your hand as he does his leash.

When you first go out with boots on your dog, keep him with you on leash. You may have to readjust the boot straps a couple of times until you get them snug enough to stay on. If Ranger loses a boot when he is deep in the woods you’re not likely to find it again!

Note: Dogs cool themselves by perspiring through their pads. If you are using boots in warm weather, be sure to take breaks and remove the boots from time to time to prevent overheating.

Comments (9)

I totally understand and empathize with your strife with all the dog shoes / boots That are on the market.
I have also tried sooo many brands and gave up last year but my baby girl cannot walk On the salt or in the cold at all more than 10 steps so I was forced to continue the search.
Well I think I found exactly what we need, we've been using them for a month now and both my Bella and I could not be happier. The brand is Neo-Paws and the quality and their Velcro system is amazing.
We went from 10 steps to 10 blocks again on all our walks and we are both thrilled and grateful To not be locked up all winter as so many little doggies and their humans are ;(
Their website is www.neopaws.com and they have a lot of other cool and warm things to buy.

Posted by: Daniel_Betty_ | February 1, 2016 9:54 PM    Report this comment

It is actually very funny when see them put on dog shoes for the first time. Just saw a few youtube video on the compilation and laughed all the way... Agreed that dog shoes are good for their protection!

Posted by: JT | December 5, 2014 6:52 AM    Report this comment

I noticed during a very cold spell last winter that after getting a warmer dog coat from Foggy Mountain, my Beauceron's feet did not get cold anymore. It was the one with the nylon on the outside, polyester fill and thick fleece inside, plus the crossing straps, like a horse blanket. Wow, the best coat ever!

Posted by: JM | January 15, 2014 4:11 PM    Report this comment

With two small dogs, Chihuahua and Pom mix I have experienced the "hover craft"
dance. It's hilarious to see but as you said so unnatural to them. I found that socks with rubber bands above the heel are the only way to keep their feet protected because without distinctive ankles the boots have nothing to secure them. A few kicks and they are flying off in all directions or sticking behind in the snow. We knitted tube socks (a square stitched on 2 sides) which allows their claws to come through the yard and contact the ground for traction and stability. The boots may work for larger dogs but not the tiny ones. Socks are also available with rubber non-skid treads. My little guys go "lickety split" with their stylish footwear protecting them from the stinging salt and cold.

Posted by: Linda B | January 15, 2014 12:22 PM    Report this comment

So what boots are for hare type paws? Like a Great Danes?

Posted by: mary s | January 15, 2014 10:56 AM    Report this comment

My older dog loves her boots and it make a huge difference in how long she can stay outdoors enjoyably. After trying 3 or 4 different styles of ready made boots, all of which failed to stay on I designed my own - completely different approach to boots and they worked beautifully - but still got snow pack down inside them to some extent. I experimented with wrapping to top of the boot with 1.5 inch vet wrap - and success! Not onlydoes it secure the boot - even when walking through crusty snow) , it prevents snow from entering the top of the boot...no more lost boots, and I can even use the old ones that fall off after just minutes outside. SImple, cheap and easy solution to lost boots (and not more finding boots along the roadside on our walks all summer!

Posted by: Karen M | January 14, 2014 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Sorry the link did not appear in the posted comment. The booties are from Mountain Ridge. They are standard green booties - $ 1.50 each boot. They have other heavier types also.

Posted by: mjk | January 14, 2014 10:15 AM    Report this comment

I recommend Ruffwear's Grip Trex boots. Purchased mine online through Backcountry K9 - they have great customer service. The key is sizing correctly. Use the boots on my German Shepherds when we do day long hikes in rocky areas in Utah. Have not used them in snow as my dogs love the cold.

Posted by: Ilsa | January 14, 2014 9:06 AM    Report this comment

I have sold dog boots and other foot protective gear for 10 years. This winter I have already reordered twice what I usually sell over the whole season. Whether people are becoming more savvy about dogs' needs or it is just so much worse a winter, I'm not sure. But I'd add just a couple of points to the article. First, always try on the boots -- all 4 of them! Dog feet come in two basic shapes: round and hare (or long and narrow) but most boots are manufactured for round feet. Also, the hind feet are almost always smaller than the front, so if you try on the boots, you will know whether or not you need liners, or socks, at least on the hind feet inside the boots. This can prevent losing boots because of foot size discrepancy. Second, if you do lose a boot, Ruffwear will sell you a single replacement, which is nice -- but don't throw away the box! You need to know the exact size. The little rubber balloon type foot covers (Pawz) are often enough protection from ice and chemicals on sidewalks and roads, and you get 12 to a package, to compensate for their less durable nature. They stay on well and are usually accepted easily, but won't do at all if you go off sidewalk and into fields and woods. I also recommend Mushers Secret, a waxy paw protector you rub on pads and between toes, for those quick in and out jaunts to the patio for just business. You only have to put it on a few times a week, it doesn't mark up floors, and it makes my older dog much more willing to go outside for a quickie, rather than "cross his legs" til he's desperate. It gives some traction on slippery floors, too, which seems counter intuitive but really does help. A really good set of boots is a bit pricey -- yet less than human boots! And you get 4 rather than 2! But if you fit them properly and take good care of them, they will last for years, and your dog's feet will be much more comfortable. Retailers that sell the good brands of boots will help you fit them properly and show you how to put them on relatively efficiently. We're in Colorado, so we can't take our dogs' foot health for granted. One more tip: keep your dogs' nails trimmed short and you will improve not only boot longevity but also the dog's posture and gait, and safety when wearing boots. Rocking back on the pastern to prevent putting weight on the nails first, each step, is not the normal pattern, and over time will cause various kinds of problems, some serious and some long-term.

Posted by: LaurieR | January 14, 2014 9:04 AM    Report this comment

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