Why would dogs ever need to wear protective booties?

Humans are increasing the rate in which they incorporate pets into their activities. There was a time when pets would simply wait at home for us to return from our adventures. Thanks to dog-specific gear that allows dogs to keep up with our own gear-enhanced activities, our best friends can now accompany us on our adventures. Pets are exposed to situations and conditions that they may not confront on a daily basis. These new ever-changing environmental conditions can cause pads, which are perfectly conditioned for one environment, to become blistered and cut in the new environment. Critters that are adapted to mountainous regions often suffer paw lacerations when asked to perform in lower elevations.

Conversely, the lower elevation dwelling dogs will often have difficulty in mountainous and snow environments. Hot asphalt, decomposing granite, shale, lava, scree, chemicals (snow-melters), abrasive sand, grain stubble, ice and snow are just a few of the conditions that can keep your dog out of action for several days.

How can booties improve a dog’s performance?

Ruffwear’s product developer, Patrick Kruse recounts lessons learned during the boot development process: “I have taken my dog mountain biking on several occasions before we were making Grip Trex™ Boots and at that time thought dog booties were unnecessary. In the product development stages of our Grip Trex Boots, I soon discovered that my Australian Cattle Dog, Otis, would be ready to go again within about 30 minutes of rest when wearing the boots after a 17 mile run. This was a considerable difference when compared to running him without boots. Otis would often stay off his feet as much as possible for up to three days when he wasn’t wearing boots! I always thought that Otis simply had sore muscles from the run but the Grip Trex Boot product development testing brought to light the positive impact that booties have against stone bruised and sore pads. Look at the technology in human footwear and how specific shoes allow us to perform at the top of our game for specific activities. Humans rarely head out on any adventure without footwear and yet we often drive our dogs to a new environment and ask them to keep up with us without the benefit of paw protection.

photos © Ben Moon 2010

How much hiking or running is too much on a dog’s feet?

Conditioning is key! Any amount of exercise can be too much if the dogs are not conditioned to the surfaces they are walking or running on. We suggest using protective dog booties anytime your dog is in a new environment. Dogs are accustomed to running around “bare foot” in their normal daily environment. But just as humans are susceptible to hot, cold, sharp, abrasive, or caustic surfaces, so are dogs. Be aware and you won’t have to carry a lame dog out of the backcountry.

How can you tell if a dog’s feet are sore or injured?

If you are in tune with your dog’s activity level and personality, you will be able to tell that your dog may be staying off his feet or favoring a paw. Of course it is best to be attentive to the details of your dog’s actions after any sustained or excessive exercise. Look for the obvious cuts, blisters or in extreme cases a “sloughed” pad. Less noticeable will be abraded or thin pads. In this case look for small wet dots the size of a ballpoint pen or moist areas on the pads. These are areas where the pad has worn down to the capillaries. This condition is painful, as there is very little pad left on which to walk.

What are some tips for treating a dog’s bruised or cut pads?

When treating a cut pad, the first step is to make certain that there are no foreign objects left in the wound. Splinters, gravel and glass are just a few things to look for. Flush the wound with the sterile eye-skin wash or saline solution (1-tsp. salt to a quart of warm water) and dry the paw. You may want to apply an antibiotic ointment then wrap the paw starting with a non-stick pad. A dog bootie will protect thedressing and keep the area clean between dressing changes. For bruised pads try to reduce activity to allow the pads to heal more rapidly. If left totheir own, dogs will often regulate their activity to facilitate quicker healing. Of course the best measure is prevention. Always carry a set of bootiesso that you have the choice of putting them on your pup before the going gets tough.

How do you get a dog used to new boots?

For most dogs footwear is a new concept. The first time your dog tries on a pair of dog boots it will be difficult not to laugh, as the dog will do a little dance, this is normal. Once you have the boots in place go out and engage in your pup’s favorite activity, chasing a ball, catching, flying disk or just running. After about 15 minutes, double-check the closure on the boots and adjust. This is considered the “break in” period where the nylon upper softens and conforms to the dog’s paws. After the break in period you and your buddy are ready to explore. Use common sense and allow some time for your dog to become accustomed to the booties on daily walks. Just as you would never go out on a big hike with new hiking boots, start off on easy hikes and work into the big ones with your dog’s new footwear.

photos © Ben Moon 2010


6 thoughts

  1. Our 5 year lab had a hemilaminectomy to decompress her spinalcord. She lost use of one back leg. She drags the leg and is losing her nails. What shoe would be best for her?

    1. Hi Marva,

      Though none of our boots are designed to take most of the wear and tear on the front/top of the boot like this instance would cause, we have had customers use our Grip Trex boots for this and reinforce the toe area with Shoe Goo to minimize wear. You can order single boots on our website if you only need a single boot.

  2. Our Lab/Mastiff mix, Kenton, loves to run on the hills on our property. The problem is that when he hits the driveway at full speed and changes direction he is injuring his toenails. He has torn one off and had to have another removed. Do you think the boots will help? Which might be best for him and his big, webbed feet? Would just foot boots work as he just seem to injure his front toes? Thanks for the help…..

      1. Hi Gardnerh – thanks for writing to us! Front boots could definitely help prevent this injury from happening. Please see this video for how to measure paw width to ensure proper sizing – http://bit.ly/PawWidth. If you only need 2 boots, you can order single boots from our website.

  3. I have a dog bootie conundrum. Aspen hiked with us on 62 miles of the JMT last summer and I brought her Ruffwear booties. I ordered the size according to the width of her paw per the size chart. She wore the Ruffwear socks with her booties. She wore them for a couple hours or so when I noticed her limping. The booties were rubbing on the top of her front paws, causing the limp. I think she has long and narrow paws, which may be why the booties aren’t fitting correctly. Any suggestions?

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