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Does my dog need winter booties?

As Canadians, every year we hope that this winter will be better than the last. And every year we are left asking ourselves, why do I live in this frozen wasteland? Many of our dogs are wondering the same thing. 

With the exception of huskies and other arctic breeds, dogs generally do not enjoy the extreme winter temperatures that we get here in Canada. Part of this is because of how painful it is for them to walk on the frozen ground. Good news is that there are a few things that you can do to help protect your dog’s paws from the frigid Canadian cold!

Cold feet

Different dogs have different levels of resilience to the cold. Generally small dog breeds are more sensitive to the cold than large breeds. Small dogs have a tendency to show discomfort in temperatures less than -5 degrees celsius, whereas large dogs are comfortable until -10 degrees celsius. However, as Canadians, we all know that it can get much colder than that during the winter months. It’s no fun doing winter activities with frozen feet.

Frostbite

Frostbite is a major concern when it comes to a dog's paws during winter. Dogs are at risk of frostbite when the temperature dips below -4 degrees celsius. This may not seem very cold but while we have warm boots to protect our feet, a dog’s paws are making direct contact with the icy pavement. Paws are usually the first body part to show signs of frostbite. While the severity of frostbite can vary, these are some of the common symptoms and signs of frostbite in dogs:

  • Skin around the paw pad turning blue.
  • Skin and paw pads are very cold to the touch (absence of body heat).
  • Pain and swelling in their feet.
  • Blistering and ulceration.
  • Blackened skin (extreme frostbite).

Cracked paws

Dry air tends to coincide with cold weather and this can also result in cold, chapped paws. If a dog’s paw pads are too dry, it can cause cracking on the bottom of their feet. Cracked paw pads are quite painful for dogs and can make it difficult for them to walk.

Salt burns

It’s not just the temperature that is hard on dogs' feet during winter, there are chemicals we use to make our winter existence easier that may also be affecting our dog in a negative way. The salt that we use to remove ice from our sidewalks and roads can be very harsh on our dogs feet. When a dog's exposed paws come in contact with salt on the sidewalk, it can cause a painful burning sensation. Larger salt crystals can also cause small lacerations on the paws. If you use salt to de-ice your sidewalks, consider looking for a pet safe salt or alternative.

Signs that your dogs paws are cold

If the temperature is chilly take a look at your dog, they may be telling you that their feet are cold. When a dog is experiencing pain in their paws because of the cold, they will usually start licking or chewing at their paws. They may also start lifting their feet, shifting their weight or limping. These may be signs that your dog could benefit from some form of foot protection.

Best dog booties for winter

If you’re considering purchasing some booties for your dog, try taking your dog with you to the pet store. Trying the boots on your dog beforehand will help you ensure that you purchase the correct size and fit. A boot that fits properly means that your dog will be comfortable in their new footwear. Here are some of the dog booties we love:

  1. Muttluks 

Muttluks are an excellent choice for dog booties. They come in a variety of sizes, colors and tread so your dog can conquer any winter terrain. 

​​

  1. Ruffwear

Ruffwear boots are great because they are insulated, breathable and water resistant for all your winter adventures. They also have the option to buy 2 boots instead of 4, just in case you lose a bootie or two.

  1. Silver Paw

These boots are great for senior dogs or doggos with sensitive feet. Silver Paw dog boots have that little bit of extra cushioning for those winter strolls.



If your dog cannot stand to wear boots, another alternative is a paw balm. While not as effective as boots against the cold, paw balm is still an option for those more stubborn doggos. Palm balm essentially functions like lip balm for your dog's feet. It creates a protective, water resistant barrier between your dog's paw pad and the ground. Simply rub the lipid-based balm on your dog's paw pads before you head out for your walk.

How to train your dog to like their boots

If your dog is uncomfortable with having boots on their feet, don’t force it. Instead follow these steps with positive reinforcement to get your dog loving their booties:

  1. Find a treat or toy that your dog goes crazy for.
  2. Show them the boots and reward them with the treat/toy. Do this multiple times so they create a positive association between the boots and the reward.
  3. Continue by lightly touching and rubbing their feet. Reward them with the treat/toy.
  4. Place the boots on top of your dog’s feet several times. Reward them with the treat/toy.
  5. If they are good up to this point, calmly slip the boots onto your dog's feet. You’ve probably guessed the next step… Reward!
  6. Once the boots are on, distract your dog. Start walking and/or reward them with food or a toy. Keep them from focusing on the new boots on their feet.

Most dogs find wearing boots weird initially so don’t get discouraged if they are uncooperative at first. Stay diligent with positive reinforcement and they will soon learn to appreciate their boots!


Terriers wearing dog booties while out on a winter walk
Terriers wearing dog booties while out on a winter walk
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