Let’s face it: dog boots can look hilarious, especially if your dog isn’t used to them. But comedy aside, dog boots perform a necessary function. They protect your dog’s sensitive paws from the ice and snow as well as other cold-weather hazards such as road chemicals and salt. Read on for the benefits of boots, to find out whether your dog needs boots, tips for getting your dog to wear boots, and alternatives to dog boots.
Benefits of Dog Boots
Dog boots work by keeping the foot pad dry and creating an insulating layer around it. With dry foot pads, your dog will be able to tolerate the cold weather for longer and will be more comfortable walking in the winter. Boots also protect your dog’s foot pads from irritation caused by chemicals and salt (think of all the nasty stuff we put on our driveways and sidewalks to remove ice).
Hate wiping your dog’s paws after coming in from outside? Boots keep dirt, mud, and snow from collecting on your pet’s paws. Have hardwood floors? Dog footwear can protect your floors from scratches, too. There are many types of boots to choose from, so try out a few to find the best fit for your dog.
Signs That Your Dog Is Too Cold
Here are some tell-tale signs that your dog's paws are too cold and he needs boots:
- Your dog keeps picking up their paws when walking outside.
- Your dog is licking their foot pads excessively when outside. Unfortunately, this will make your dog's feet even colder and more uncomfortable.
- Your dog is shivering. This is one of the signs that your dog needs a coat, too.
- Your dog's foot pads are dry, split, or cracked in the winter. Boots can help with this, or you may choose to use a moisturizing salve or wax instead.
- You are tired of cleaning up wet, muddy paws after coming inside or you have unwanted scratches on your hardwood or laminate floors. While your dog won't necessarily need winter boots for this, you can get some rubber foot covers that are easy to slip on and off.
- Your dog is sick, injured, recovering from injury, a puppy, a senior, or has a disease (such as heart disease), or chronic condition (such as arthritis). These dogs are more susceptible to the effects of the cold, so be sure to outfit them with both boots and an appropriate dog coat or sweater.
- Be very careful if your pet has or develops a paw injury, especially if the skin breaks. Broken skin leads way to infection and irritation. Clean paws before and after walks and have your pet wear boots to prevent infection and further damage.
Does My Dog Need Boots?
Almost all dogs that live in climates where temperatures drop below freezing or where there is snow and ice would benefit from boots or some kind of foot covering. Chemicals and salt that people put on their sidewalks to remove ice is irritating and damaging to uncovered pet paws. Even cold-weather loving breeds should be wearing some type of foot covering or paw wax to prevent paws from drying out. These dog breeds that are suited to cold weather do not need insulated boots, but should wear thin, pliable, and waterproof boots for their best comfort.
Cold-Weather Loving Breeds
There are some dogs who are well-suited to cold climates. These dogs can still benefit from boots, but you'll probably want to seek out light boots with no extra insulation if you are spending time outdoors for a short duration. If you are on extended walks or hikes, or if your dog will be spending a lot of time outside, you may choose boots with more insulation. Remember, though these dogs are generaly more suited to cold weather because of their heavy, water-repellant coats, they still have exposed paws. Your dog's comfort should be your main priority when deciding whether she needs boots.
Here are some dog breeds that do well in cold climates:
- Alaskan Malamute
- American Eskimo
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Chow Chow
- Great Pyrenees
- Saint Bernard
- Shiba Inu
- Tibetan Terrier
- Golden Doodle
Tips for Getting Your Dog To Wear Boots and Basic Winter Paw Care
It's not always easy to find boots that work for your dog, especially if your dog has never worn boots before.
Here are some tips for getting your dog to wear boots and other winter paw care tips:
- If your dog has trouble wearing boots, try a variety that is more pliable rather than preformed boots. These fit all paws better.
- Felt or fleece boots can be great for getting your dog used to wearing boots as they are quite malleable. However, since these boots are not waterproof, they don't work well for long walks where snow will melt through, or for sleet and slush weather. In fact, if these boots get wet, they can actually make your canine's foot pads even colder than his bare paws would be. Choose a waterproof variety instead.
- Many dogs dislike boots because they cannot feel the ground while wearing them. Try thin rubber boots (kind of like balloons for your dog's paws). These boots may not have much for insulation, but they keep your dog's foot pads dry, which is the most important function of winter boots for dogs.
- Try, try, try! Dog boots come in so many different styles and materials. Find one that works best with your dog.
- Try one paw at a time. Even let your dog go outside with just one or two boots on, particularly when it is quite cold. Once he feels the difference, he may be more willing to wear them.
- If your dog is ever outside in the winter without boots or with just paw wax on, make sure you rinse and dry their paws with warm water and a towel or a pre-moistened pet wipe when they come back inside. You want to make sure any road chemicals or salt is rinsed off before your dog licks their paws, and to prevent irritation.
- Moisturize paws in the winter with a paw balm or dog skin conditioner such as organic coconut oil. Be sure to choose a pet-safe, all natural product instead of just any human cream or petroleum-based product, as your dog will surely ingest some of it when licking his paws.
- If your dog's paws do become cracked or irritated, help them recover quickly with a paw repair salve or medicated spray for dogs. A natural antiseptic such as tea tree oil can be effective for quick skin repair as well.
Dog Boot Alternatives
Some dogs just won't wear boots. And, other dogs who are more suited for cold weather may not need a full insulated boot. But, these dogs can still benefit from road chemical and salt protection and winter dryness by using a dog boot alternative.
Paw wax is a thick wax that you place on the bottom of your dog's paws to protect them from the salt and road chemicals and snow and ice on your winter walks. It will keep your dog's foot pads from drying out, and subsequently cracking or splitting, and provides a nominal waterproof barrier. Paw wax is a great choice for cold-loving breeds such as Huskies, as well as any dogs who refuse to wear boots.
Dog boots perform many functions for dogs in the winter, and are a must-have for nearly every dog who lives in freezing temperatures. Keep your dog's paws looking and feeling their best with the right dog boots for her.