The #1 question I get via email and social media is about Xena’s boots. I wrote about it here and there in the past. But I think now it’s time to put everything together in one post. So, let’s get started.
Do dogs need boots for hiking?
It is essential to let your dog hike on different terrains and develop callouses on their paw pads because callouses provide natural protection. However, every dog is different. Some dogs have more sensitive paws than others and enjoy the benefits of having the extra layer of cushion while some dogs don’t need boots ever. In fact, they can’t stand wearing them.
For hikes longer than 8 miles on technical terrain, we use boots on the second half of the trek or a part of it. That seems to work best for Xena. On very rocky terrain, she prefers to hike with her boots on. How do I know? Because once the boots are on, her steps are more confident and less deliberate, and she smiles up at me.
In the end, only you can answer this question because you know your dog the best. However, it’s not a bad idea to keep a set available anyhow. They come in handy when they injure their paw on a hike.
When should you consider boots for your four-legged hiking partner?
With plenty of walks and exercise, dogs naturally build calluses on their paw pads over time, but some dogs naturally have tender paws.
Be attentive to your dog while hiking and afterward to see if your pup shows any distress. Limping during a hike or excessive licking of the paws and/or paw pads is a good indicator that they have sore paws or even an injury.
Some hikes start from a paved surface. Just remember, if it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads as well. Pad burns can lead to blistering, tissue loss, and extreme pain.
Do you plan to do a lot of hiking during winter in snow and ice?
All puppies have tender paws as their paw pads are not fully developed yet. However, before you purchase a new pair of cute booties for your growing puppy, I recommend holding off on planning long hikes with your puppy yet. This topic is saved for another post.
How much do they cost and where can I buy them?
A variety of dog boots are available online and at retail stores like REI and Petco. Although you may find dog shoes at Petco and other pet boutiques, usually those stores do not carry durable boots for rugged terrain.
Prices vary from $3/boot to $100/a set of 4 depending on the brands and the purpose. Some brands sell boots by a set, and some sell them by boot. Some boots are suitable for all year round, and some are specially made for winter hiking.
Don’t just assume that all high-end brands carry high-quality boots with a better fit than more affordable brands. Be sure to read customer reviews to see if they are a good fit for your dog’s needs.
Introducing new boots to your dog
Ease into it and make it fun. I recommend introducing any new gear to your dog at home first. Here is what I do with Xena. I make sure it’s a positive experience. She is food motivated, so treats are all I need to make it fun. First, I let her sniff the gear as long as she wants then give her a treat and praises. Also, I give her treat before putting the new gear on her and more treats after the gear is on.
Feeling unsure is normal, but your dog should never feel scared or forced to put on the new gear. That will lead to her running away at the sight of the gear next time. Be sure to make it fun so she can associate the gear with a positive experience.
What to expect the first time?
It’s normal for them to act like they lost their paws. I can’t move! It’s hilarious! Even now, Xena does that E V E R Y time. Dogs are not used to the feeling. Some might start chewing on them to get them off. Xena does funny stretches. The best thing to do is to have your dog start walking, so they don’t focus on the boots. Lure her with treats to walk toward you. Give him praises and treats. That’s enough for the first time.
How do you keep the booties on?
The most common complaint I hear is that the boots coming off and getting lost. First, the correct measurement of the paws is essential. I recommend measuring each paw individually according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, your dog’s front paws are larger than the back paws.
For this reason, I like buying Xena’s boots individually rather than as a set. If you already have a set and realized the back paws are too small for the boots, try putting on socks first. We do this anyway to prevent blisters.
Another possible issue could be how the boots are on. Make sure the velcro tie is tightly secured around the ankle to the point you wonder if you are doing it too tight. Also, re-secure the boots after good zoomies.
There you have it! Hope you find this article helpful. Regardless of the brand, make sure the boots are made for hiking and adventure, and they are breathable! Dogs only produce sweat in areas not covered with fur.