As I stopped for the um-teenth time on my walk this week to help my dog dig rock-hard balls of snow out of her paws, it occurred to me that it might be helpful for my blog readers (and myself!) to research options for dog paw protection in the winter.
As I pondered the idea, I realized it would be even more helpful to talk about protection for summer (hot pavement) and hiking (rough terrain) as well.
So sit back, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and learn how to avoid painful paw issues in any season!
Why Do I Need Dog Paw Protection?
Dog paw safety and comfort isn’t something most dog owners think about until their dog pulls up lame on a walk or hike.
It’s more common than you think. Heat, extreme cold, and rough terrain can cause our dog’s sensitive paw pads to become painful quite quickly. Here’s a quick rundown of the source of the pain:
- Winter: Extreme cold temperatures, snow, and road salt cause paw pain issues in winter.
- Summer: Black asphalt roads and walking paths are the primary culprits, causing blisters and burns.
- Rough terrain: If you like to hike on rough or rocky terrain, your dog’s pad can become dry and cracked.
Dog Paw Protection for Winter
Winter paw protection needed for two reasons:
- Snow/ice “balls” between pads: When you walk your dog in the snow, the fur between their pads traps snow. As the dog continues to walk, they get hard little balls of snow between their pads that grow bigger and harder. The snow compacts and becomes almost as hard as ice the farther you walk.
- Extreme cold: Any of you who live in a colder climate have seen your dog hold their paws up because of pain from the cold.
If it’s moderately cold, you might get 10 minutes into your walk and suddenly have a dog that can’t walk anymore.
If it’s subzero you might let your dog out for a bathroom break and have them unable to finish doing their business before the pain starts making them hold up their paw – this can happen in as little as 1-2 minutes.
Situation 2 can be downright dangerous if you don’t get your dog inside the minute they start holding up their paws. I stepped away from the window for about 30 seconds on a cold winter day and when I returned my dog was in so much pain he had laid down and couldn’t get up to walk in.
That day I learned that when my adrenaline is pumping I can hoist up an 80 pound golden retriever and stagger back in the house. I also learned to never, ever take my eyes off my dogs when they are outside in extreme cold temperatures. I shudder to think about what might have happened if I had forgotten to check on him.
Important Tip! Before You Start Shopping:
There are A LOT of foreign-made dog products on Amazon. If you search for a dog product, you will see strange brand names like “CPFK,” “PEWOD,” or “EETOYS.”
My rule of thumb is that if I can’t find a company’s website on Google, I’m very hesitant to buy from it as 1) I can’t trust the product quality or safety and 2) I doubt customer service will be easy to obtain.
Example: One set of booties is made by “Expawlorer.” When you scroll down the page to the product information the manufacturer is listed as “Haobo.”
A quick search on Google shows there is no company website for either name. If there is no company website, you may struggle to get customer service if the product is defective or has issues down the road.
Quality Dog Paw Protection Winter Options
1. Dog Winter Boots
One of the easiest ways to prevent paw issues from snow or cold is to get some dog “shoes” for winter protection.
Factors to consider when looking at different dog booties:
- Are the bottoms waterproof?
This is especially helpful if you are crossing streets with melted snow/salt puddles, or if you are walking in wet heavy snow.
- How long do you want them to last?
Softer dog shoes may look cushier and more comfortable but they will wear out much faster. I loved these dog boots, but because I used them a lot they only lasted one season:
- What is your budget?
- What do reviewers say?
I learn a lot from reading reviews. You may resonate with what someone liked about a bootie, or what frustrated them. Always remember, though, not to believe any one review as the gospel; look to see if the feedback you read is echoed in other reviews as well.
- Is this a company you want to support?
Will this company be around down the road if you have problems or questions? Does their business have positive traits such as sustainable manufacturing, eco-friendly products, or giving back to the community?
Best Dog Winter Boot Brands
Because I don’t have the budget to try out a variety of different dog boots for winter traction, I read a ton of reviews that tested and recommended the best dog winter boots on the market. Once I noted which brands were recommended in multiple articles, I read their reviews from purchasers to see if actual reviews matched purported benefits.
Time and time again the same winter dog booties end up at the top of the rating lists:
These boots were the top recommendation in most articles and had the highest reviews from purchasers.
The company prioritizes sustainable business practices and makes a point of giving back to the community (both local and philanthropical causes).
My Ruffwear products are all extremely high quality and durable. They may cost more than other brands, but they last forever. I seriously do not own one Ruffwear item that has worn out. Ever.
The soles are made from Vibram, a high-quality, durable material used in military and hiking boots. This is a primary reason Ruffwear boots are used by working dogs and search & rescue dogs around the world.
The Polar Trex boots have a velcro cinch that wraps at the narrowest part of the dog’s leg to keep the boot from slipping off, and it has a stretch gator that zips up to keep snow from getting into the boot or the velcro closure.
You buy them in packs of 2. This is because many dogs will need one size for their front paws, and another size for their back paws.
In the past, dog booties have been sold in sets of 4 and purchasers had trouble with either the front or back booties coming off too easily and getting lost. The current trend in high quality winter dog boots is to sell in packs of 2 to avoid that issue.
If budget is a concern, these booties are a good option.
Ethical Pet is another good company that prioritizes sustainability and using recycled and/or natural materials whenever possible.
These booties are very flexible, comfortable, and stay on your dog’s feet. The cuff at the top prevents snow from getting down inside the boots.
They won’t last as long as the Ruffwear (product life will depend on how often you use them and the terrain you are using them on) and they are not waterproof. But, they have a very low price point, should last at least one or two winter seasons, and they work well at keeping snow from building up in your dog’s paws.
If you use these, be sure to keep your dog’s nails trimmed to prolong the life of the boot.
2. Dog Paw Balm
Another way to keep snow from accumulating between your dog’s pads and toes is by applying a balm to the paws before walks. The balm keeps snow or salt from adhering to the fur and skin.
It may require re-application if you are going to be outside a long time (as in hours).
This brand stood out to me because 1) it has organic, all-natural ingredients and 2) they make the product in the U.S. The balm protects dog paws from heat, salt, snow, and prevents paw damage.
All of the products this company makes have organic & natural ingredients, and the only fragrances they add are natural essential oils.
Musher’s Secret is another 100% natural food grade wax that forms a breathable barrier for your animal’s paws. I called their customer support number and talked to a really nice woman who answered my questions – there are no fragrances added, and none of the “fumed silica” (engineered nanomaterial) that I saw in a competing product.
Reviewers talked about using it successfully for preventing snow balls between pads, protection from extreme cold (paw lifting), protecting pads from salt, preventing cracked and bleeding pads, and protecting from heat. The product is made in North America.
3. Trimming Your Dog’s Paw Fur
Trimming your dog’s paw fur is a low-budget solution to the snow balls that accumulate between paw pads.
It also helps dogs who have trouble on slippery wood floors; trimming the hair that covers the pads enables the dog to get a better grip on slippery surfaces.
Note that it does not protect from salt on roadways and sidewalks, nor does it protect the dog’s paws from hot asphalt or rugged terrain in the summer (in fact it would make both a bit worse since no fur is covering the pads).
An important thing to note is that many YouTube instructional fur-trimming videos use clippers and/or pointed scissors. Unless you’re a trained professional, I would strongly encourage you to only use blunt-tip scissors – no pointy scissors or clippers.
It’s too easy to accidentally cut your dog; many paw pad injuries happen this way.
Here is a pair of scissors similar to the type used in the video:
Here is a great YouTube video by the Doodle Grooming Chick that shows you how to trim your dog’s paw fur. She uses blunt tip scissors and discusses how to do it to make sure you don’t accidentally cut the paw.
Dog Paw Protection for Summer Heat
Many dog owners aren’t aware that the heat from hot pavement can burn your dog’s sensitive pads
In the hot summer sun, black asphalt – and even cement pavement – absorbs heat and becomes burning hot. It’s especially dangerous because it’s something we don’t notice if we’re wearing shoes, but our dogs can sustain serious burns on their pads when walking on it.
Your dog may seem like it’s trying to pull you off the trail, but they may be trying to get off the hot pavement. Some dogs may be so excited to walk they don’t notice the hot pavement until their paw pads become raw.
Summer paw protection can be as simple as avoiding pavement and walking in grass instead.
If your favorite dog walks involve pavement, here are options that will protect your dog’s paws from the heat:
The Summit Trex provides everyday traction and paw protection for your dog. They are less expensive than higher-end models so are a good choice if you are using them to protect paws from the heat of hot asphalt.
These dog boots come in sets of two so you can buy the correct size for the front and back feet.
The Kurgo dog boot gets high ratings as well. One person stated they are a little less flexible than Ruffwear boots.
The good news is that they are more budget-friendly, the bad news is that you buy them in sets of 4 instead of 2. Since most dogs have different sized front feet vs. rear feet, this means there is a higher likelihood a boot may slide off your dog’s foot during your activity.
Dog Paw Protection for Hiking
If you hike a lot in the summer, dog pads can become dry and cracked. When choosing dog boots you want to look for extra-durable and well-ventilated boots that provide exceptional traction on rugged terrain.
If you love to hike with your dog, check out this article about dog hiking gear to see equipment that makes hiking with your dog easy and fun!
The Grip Trex is a step up from the Summit Trex, designed for dogs that hike, bike, and run outside with their humans. The bottom provides durable traction, and the top is ventilated. They come in sets of two so you can buy the correct size for the front and back feet.
This Kurgo boot is similar to the Blaze Cross boot above, with the addition of LED lights on the sides of the boots.
After reading the reviews I would only get these if you walk at night and would find the LEDs useful. They cannot be turned on and off, and once the batteries die they cannot be replaced. If you don’t need the lights but want the lower cost of this boot, get the Blaze Cross.
Like the Blaze Cross, these boots have the advantage of a lower price point, but the disadvantage of being sold in sets of 4.
Handy Tips for Using Dog Boots
Don’t Forget Socks!
When I bought my first pair of Ruffwear dog boots, I had issues with the boots twisting on my dog’s foot as he walked (the bottom of the boot would end up on the top side of the paw).
I called Ruffwear for help and they recommended using these socks inside the boot. Sure enough, when my dog wore the socks the boots stayed in place and didn’t rotate. In addition, the socks protected my dog from getting sore spots from rubbing or chafing on long walks.
Trust me, I know it seems ridiculous. I’m not one to go overboard and buy unnecessary things like dog socks unless I see a benefit. After seeing the difference, I now think the socks are worth every penny.
Break in Your New Dog Boots
High quality dog boots tend to start out a little more stiff, similar to when we buy a new pair of shoes.
If you buy Ruffwear boots, the company has a helpful article about Breaking in Ruffwear Dog Boots that help the boots be more flexible for your dog right from the start. It’s definitely worth reading before you start using your dog boots.
Recheck Your Boot’s Closure Strap After 15 Minutes of Use
This helpful tip was on the Ruffwear website: Just as you would with your gear, check the hook and loop closure system and adjust the fit as needed 15 minutes into your activity and throughout the adventure.
This helps prevent the boots from slipping off unnoticed and getting lost.
Which Type of Dog Boots Do You Need?
Ruffwear has a great guide to help you choose which boots you need. If you want to invest in their high quality boots, read Choosing the Right Ruffwear Dog Boots to be sure you choose the style that best fits your needs.
How to Put Boots on Your Dog
This is where it gets interesting.
I was hoping to find some nice guide online to share with you with a tried and true way to easily put booties on your dog’s feet.
After thinking it over, I decided it would be better to prepare you for the reality of the circus that may occur.
Hopefully you have one of those dogs who will sit or lie down passively while you put the boots on. But in case you don’t, you need to prepare yourself for this reality: most dogs do not like getting boots put on.
When I take mine out, my dogs start slinking around and hiding under the table or in a different room, similar to when I take out the nail clippers. Once I find them and get the socks and booties on , however, they become their bouncy selves and get excited when I ask if they want to go on a walk.
The first few times you use boots, don’t freak out when your dog starts walking around the room holding their paws high in the air as if they have just stepped in something disgusting.
In fact, sit back and enjoy it, maybe take a video to watch later – it’s pretty hilarious. The look on their face as they look at the foreign objects attached to their feet is especially notable.
Don’t worry, they will get used to the boots over time and stop walking like a dork.
Choosing the Best Dog Paw Protection for Your Dog
There is no right answer for which paw protection is best.
Make a list of the best options from the lists above for your specific needs.
First, ask yourself if any of them would drive you batty using daily and eliminate those from your options.
Then look at the remaining options, think about your budget, and pick the best choice for you and your dog.
Do you have other good dog paw protection options that aren’t listed above? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Until next time-
Want to save this article for future reference? Save this pin to your Cool Dog Gear board!