Dog boots for winter do more than make a cold-weather fashion statement. They also protect your furry pal’s paws from ice, snow, salt and deicing chemicals when he’s out for a neighborhood walk or stroll through a frosty winter wonderland.
Lucia Kirkpatrick and her family live in Colorado with their itty-bitty Yorkie named Charlie, and the 7-pound dog refused to step his paw on the ice and snow for bathroom breaks—that is, until Kirkpatrick and her pup got some dog training and fancy dog footwear.
“We worked with a dog trainer to teach Charlie how to wear his dog socks and dog shoes,” she says. “Now, we put on his winter coat and snow boots, and he can’t wait to run outside to play!”
If you deal with snowy winters, it’s important to train your pup how to be comfortable in dog boots so you can keep him safe, warm and ready for cold-weather fun.
The Importance of Dog Boots in the Winter
Dog snow boots protect paws from ice, snow and other wintertime hazards. When looking for shoes for your canine, remember that not all dog boots are created equal. Some are designed for hiking rocky, off-road trails. Some are used to safeguard injured paws. And others, like Pawz waterproof dog boots, Kurgo Step & Strobe dog boots and Ultra Paws rugged dog boots, are geared specifically to protect paws from ice, snow and salt.
“Sometimes the ground is so cold it might hurt your dog’s pads to walk on it,” says Terri Bright, Ph.D., DCBA-D, CAAB, director of behavior services at Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. “And for dogs who walk on a sidewalk, salt can get stuck between their toes.”
Just like when your hands or feet ache, tingle and feel numb when they’re exposed to frigid temperatures, your dog’s paws can ache and tingle, too. Just imagine walking barefoot on ice for a long period of time. This happens because when he’s trekking on cold ground, the blood vessels in his paws narrow to help him preserve heat in his body’s core. If his vessels remain constricted for too long, the reduced blood flow can lead to tissue damage and frostbite.
The threat of frostbite isn’t the only concern. Salt and deicing chemicals—particularly sodium chloride and various calcium salts—used to melt ice on sidewalks and roadways can irritate your pal’s paws and skin, even causing chemical burns in extreme situations. Dog boots prevent the salt from collecting between his toes or sticking to his paw pads.
Training Tips to Get Your Dog Comfortable with Dog Boots
It may be simple for us to understand why dog shoes are important in icy, snowy conditions, but pets may need a little more convincing.
“If you have a dog who is used to being handled and wearing coats and the like, it can be easy to put the boots on,” Bright says. “But it is sure pathetic when [dogs] cannot move in the boots!”
To teach your dog to be comfortable wearing boots, Bright, who is a certified animal behaviorist, offers these step-by-step dog training instructions.
Train your dog to be OK with you handling his paws.
If you never had to teach your dog to allow you to handle his paws, you must start training him from there.
“The more slowly you work this process, the better your results,” Bright says. “Training should be for 5 minutes at a time, every other day.”
Work on one foot at a time until your dog is relaxed with you handling his feet, Bright says. With patience (and treats!) your dog should get comfortable with you touching his paws sooner than later.
Introduce your pet to the dog boots.
Once your dog is OK with you touching his paws, you can start to get him comfortable with his new dog boots. Bright says to first show your dog the boots, and then let him smell them. You can put the boots next to his food, as well, which will teach your dog to associate the shoes with good things—like dinner, she adds.
After the boots have passed your dog’s sniff test, move on to rubbing the material on your pup’s paw.
“Rub the material on his foot, and, of course, pair it with food,” Bright says.
Put the dog shoes on for a short period of time to allow your pup to get used to having something on his feet.
After successfully introducing the dog boots to your pal, you’re one step closer to the door!
“Once all of these steps have been taken and your dog wags his tail when he sees the boots, put one on, give some treats, and then take it off,” Bright says. “Do this a few times, and reward the dog if he will walk.”
Repeat this process with all four boots until you’ve successfully gotten them all on your dog at the same time.
Once he’s comfortable wearing all four boots, it’s time to go outside.
Reassess the reward and repeat the training if your dog refuses to wear the boots.
When all else fails, go back to the previous step.
“If, at any time, the dog balks or gets scared, stop and go back to the previous most successful step in training,” Bright says.
Dog boots aren’t like a new dog toy; it might take some time for your pet to get used to them. It’s vital to introduce the dog shoes at a pace your canine is most comfortable with in order to get him used to his booties.
“If he refuses to wear the shoes, stop trying for a week,” Bright says. “Reassess what you are using as a reward: Would a toy be better? Gorgonzola cheese?”
Safety Tips and Precautions
You can find many styles of shoes to fit your pal’s personality and needs. Regardless of how fashionable they are, however, choose wintertime dog boots that are waterproof with textured soles to help your pet stay steady on the slippery ice, Bright says.
When fitting your pet with dog boots or dog shoes, make sure they are not too tight or too loose. For the best fit, measure the width and length of your dog’s paw while it is still on the ground. Make sure you’re measuring at the widest and longest points, including his claws.
Periodically, inspect your pal’s shoes to make sure there are no rips, holes or other signs of extreme wear and tear. Ensure the hook-and-loop fasteners work and the soles are solid.
Dogs in boots—especially when they’re still learning how to walk in them—can be a funny sight to see. But snow boots and shoes protect your pal’s paws from frigid temperatures and deicing chemicals, keep him warm and cozy, and let him strut his stuff all winter long.
In addition to dog boots, consider dog coats and sweaters for winter: