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The Best Dog Boots for Snow and Ice

The Best Dog Boots for Snow and Ice

The Struggle to Keep Paws Protected

One of the questions I get the most is what dog boots I recommend for the winter. The answer is complicated. It depends on the snow you’re on, the temperature, the length of time you’re outside, how deep or packed the snow is, and what type of dog you have (dewclaws? energetic? insane? eats boots?). As a seasoned dog parent and hiker, I’ve tried it all – from the classic Velcro-strapped booties to the neoprene wonders. And let me tell you, finding the perfect winter paw protection is no easy feat.

Putting Boots on the Ground

Let me start by saying that I don’t put boots on my dogs unless they truly need them. Dogs don’t require boots in all winter conditions, and I try not to preemptively put them on unless I know they’ll be necessary. You see, dogs need to feel the ground beneath their paws to navigate their surroundings properly. Boots can make them slip and slip, and they can even impede their ability to climb stairs or tackle rocky terrain. Imagine trying to open a can with thick gloves on your hands – it’s just not the same.

As I’ve learned from my friends at The Dog Walks Me, I generally advise not putting on boots unless your dog shows you they need them. But I always carry them with me, just in case. After all, there are some obvious situations where boots are a must.

Knowing When Boots Are Needed

How do you know if your dog needs boots? Well, in my experience, the telltale signs are when my pups stop running, start lifting their paws, and seem much happier once I’ve put the boots on and they can zoom around again. Over time, I’ve learned that my dogs need boots when the temperature dips below -10°C (14°F), and I make sure to bring them along if I think we might encounter those chilly conditions, especially when hiking up mountains where the temps can drop even further.

Don’t forget about the windchill factor, either! That can make a big difference in how quickly your dog’s paws start to feel the effects of the cold.

Tackling the Tricky Fit

One of the biggest hurdles when it comes to dog boots is dealing with dewclaws or small paws that just don’t seem to fit the boots properly. Even though my girls don’t have these issues, I’ve heard from fellow dog owners that it can be a real challenge.

Dewclaws tend to rub on the straps and edges of the boots, and over time, this can cause bleeding and make the boots incredibly painful for your pup. The solution? Wrapping the dewclaw with Vet Wrap to prevent it from moving too much. You can then either put the boot on over the wrap or use a sock as an extra layer of protection.

For dogs with slim paws, the boots can just slip right off, no matter how tight you fasten them. Experimenting with different brands and styles is key, and using a bit of medical tape or even duct tape can help keep those boots in place.

Exploring the Boot Options

Now, let’s dive into the different types of dog boots out there and their pros and cons. First up, the classic style: soft material on top, rubber sole on the bottom, and a strap around the ankle. Despite what some might claim, these are not waterproof, but they do okay with packed snow.

The challenge with the classic style is that the ankle strap can be a real pain, especially for dogs with dewclaws. And if you don’t use a sock, they have a tendency to slip right off, especially if your pup is an off-leash runner. A little trick I’ve learned is to give the boot a quarter-twist before tightening the strap – it seems to help them stay on better.

The quality of these boots really makes a difference, too. Cheaper versions often have stitching that rubs and causes blisters, and the Velcro can be a real letdown. Over time, even the better-quality classics tend to wear down, and the materials can start to peel away.

Trying the Tougher Boots

Then there are the more heavy-duty options, like the Ruffwear Polar Trex with their thick soles and gaiters. While a good idea in theory, my girl Whiskey wasn’t a fan – she felt like she couldn’t feel the ground beneath her paws, and the gaiters just ended up trapping the snow inside.

I had better luck with the Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Boots, which have thinner soles and easier-to-use straps. Unfortunately, some of the older pairs I had started wearing down and literally fell apart. But the warranty was great, and my friends had good experiences with them.

The Hurtta Dog Boots were another contender – they stayed on well if you pulled the straps tight and wove them through the front strap. But the fabric in the middle of the heel eventually wore through and created holes. Luckily, a new and improved version is supposed to be coming soon.

Exploring the Lightweight Options

If you’re looking for a more lightweight and flexible boot, the Hurtta-style fabric boots can be a good option for packed snow on the trails. They’re cheap, easy to put on and off, and the thin soles allow your pup to still feel the ground. The downside is that they won’t hold up well in wet conditions or deep snow, as the fabric tends to wear out over time.

I’ve also been trying out the Nonstop booties lately, and I have to say, I’m a fan of the reasonable price and the high-quality Velcro with a handy bungee for easier application. The only catch is that they do let in snow over time, especially in deep powder, and the edges can ice over just like the other boots.

Battling the Ice and Snow

No matter which boots you choose, there always seems to be the issue of snow and ice buildup. Even the higher-leg styles can’t completely prevent the snow from filling in and turning to ice as your dog’s body heat warms it up.

One solution I’ve found is to duct tape the boots on – it may not be the prettiest look, but it helps keep them in place and prevents the snow and ice from causing issues. And if your dog is really prone to snowballs or icy paws, try giving their paws a good coating of Musher’s wax before heading out. This can provide a bit of extra protection and make it harder for the snow to stick.

The Verdict

When it comes to finding the best dog boots for snow and ice, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It really depends on your pup’s needs, the weather conditions, and the type of activities you’ll be doing. But with a little trial and error, and a willingness to get creative with things like duct tape and wax, you can help keep those precious paws protected and your dog happy and healthy all winter long.

Happy trails, my furry friends!

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