Do Dogs Need Boots in Winter?

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11 Minute Read
 | Amy Dyck
Updated March 28, 2021

Do dogs need boots in winter? Let’s face it: dog boots can look hilarious, especially if your dog isn’t used to them. But comedy aside, dog boots perform a necessary function.

Dog boots protect your dog’s sensitive paws from the ice and snow as well as other cold-weather hazards such as road chemicals and salt. Read on for the benefits of boots, and get some great tips for getting your dog to wear boots.

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of dog boots, you might be wondering if they are really necessary. Your dog's paw pads are naturally designed to handle walking on rough surfaces and in different environments. But their ability to handle extreme temperatures is still limited. 

This is when dog boots can come in handy. Though dogs may not love wearing them, they allow your dog to handle more extreme temperatures and terrains. 

 

What are Dog Boots?

Dog boots, also known as dog booties, are tough, fabric, rubber, or plastic covers for dogs' paws used primarily to protect the dog from cold weather, rugged terrain, and injury. They're analogous to cowboy boots and are pretty popular in dog sled racing. 

Dog boots have two kinds of closure, Velcro straps or hook and loop closures. The most common among these is the Velcro strap, which goes around the top of the foot and across to the side. They may have reflective strips at the front end of the boot to allow others to see the dog’s racing positions.

There are three main components to dog boots: the sole, the uppers, and the sock liner. The sole is the rubber portion of the boot that goes over the entire ankle. The uppers are the main structure of the boot, and it has a closure on the backside of the boot. Lastly, the sock liner is the portion of the boot that provides padding, insulation, and comfort for the dog.

A popular material used in dog boots is breathable mesh fabric used as the lining. This allows dog boots to be designed for different seasons. While dog boots for snow might be the most common application, all-season dog boots can be helpful for running and hiking with your dog. 

Other small dog boots include water-wicking features, which allow the dog boot to keep paws dry through the rain or other inclement weather conditions. Some boots also have antimicrobial properties and rubber soles to absorb the impact of gravel and stones kicked up by their paws. 

The last of the common dog boot features are grip pads on the bottom of the boots to help give them additional traction and stability when walking. This is an important feature in dog hiking boots. These last few features, among others, are essential for long-term comfortable pet wear.

 

Benefits of Dog Boots

puppy boots

Is there anything cuter than a dog wearing snow boots? I don’t think so. But besides how cute they can be, there are many other benefits to buying dog snow boots for winter.

Dog boots work by keeping the footpad dry and creating an insulating layer around it. With dry foot pads, your dog will be able to tolerate the cold weather for longer and will be more comfortable walking in the winter. So, do dogs need boots for winter? We would say yes, especially if you live in areas with especially harsh winters.

Boots also protect your dog’s footpads from irritation caused by chemicals and salt (think of all the nasty stuff we put on our driveways and sidewalks to remove ice).

Hate wiping your dog’s paws after coming in from outside? Boots keep dirt, mud, and snow from collecting on your pet’s paws. Have hardwood floors? Dog footwear can protect your floors from scratches, too. There are many types of boots to choose from, so try out a few to find the best fit for your dog.

Boots aren't just dog shoes for winter either, though that's when they are most commonly used. Extremely hot weather or rugged terrain can be harmful to your dog's sensitive pads too. Next time you take your dog for a hike out in the wilderness, make sure to bring along a pair of boots, like Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots.

Shop All Ruffwear Gear

Signs That Your Dog Is Too Cold

best dog boots for snow

Here are some tell-tale signs that your dog's paws are too cold and he needs boots:

    • Your dog keeps picking up their paws when walking outside. 
    • Your dog is licking their footpads excessively when outside. (Unfortunately, this will make your dog's feet even colder and more uncomfortable.)
    • Your dog is shivering. This is one of the signs that your dog needs a coat, too. 
    • Your dog's footpads are dry, split, or cracked in the winter. Boots can help with this, or you may choose to use a moisturizing salve or wax instead. 
    • You are tired of cleaning up wet, muddy paws after coming inside, or you have unwanted scratches on your hardwood or laminate floors. While your dog won't necessarily need winter boots for this, you can get some rubber foot covers that are easy to slip on and off. 
    • Your dog is sick, injured, recovering from injury, a puppy, a senior, or has a disease (such as heart disease), or chronic condition (such as arthritis). These dogs are more susceptible to the effects of the cold, so be sure to outfit them with both boots and appropriate dog clothes
    • Be very careful if your pet has or develops a paw injury, especially if the skin breaks. Broken skin leads way to infection and irritation. Clean paws before and after walks and have your pet wear boots to prevent infection and further damage. 

All of these are signs that it's too cold for your dog to be walking around without paw protection. Ignoring these signs could lead to paw damage and frostbite. Plus, it may discourage your dog from wanting to go outside and exercise.

Best Dog Boots

 

Do Dogs Need Boots?

Almost all dogs that live in climates where temperatures drop below freezing or where there is snow and ice would benefit from boots or some kind of foot covering. So, if you live in a cold area and are wondering do dogs need snow boots--the answer is yes.

Chemicals and salt that people put on their sidewalks to remove ice can be irritating and damaging to uncovered pet paws. Even cold-weather-loving breeds should be wearing some type of foot covering or paw wax to prevent paws from drying out.

These dog breeds that are suited to cold weather do not need insulated boots but should wear thin, pliable, and waterproof boots for their best comfort.

 

Cold-Weather Loving Breeds

dog shoes for winter

Some dogs are well-suited to cold climates. These dogs can still benefit from boots, but you'll probably want to seek out light boots with no extra insulation if you are spending time outdoors for a short duration. If you are on extended walks or hikes, or if your dog will be spending a lot of time outside, you may choose boots with more insulation.

Remember, though these dogs are generally more suited to cold weather because of their heavy, water-repellent coats, they still have exposed paws. Your dog's comfort should be your main priority when deciding whether she needs boots.

Here are some dog breeds that do well in cold climates:

    • Husky
    • Samoyed 
    • Akita 
    • Alaskan Malamute 
    • American Eskimo 
    • Bernese Mountain Dog 
    • Chow Chow 
    • Great Pyrenees 
    • Keeshond 
    • Newfoundland 
    • Saint Bernard 
    • Shiba Inu 
    • Tibetan Terrier 
    • Golden Doodle

 

Tips for Getting Your Dog To Wear Boots and Basic Winter Paw Care

It's not always easy to find boots that work for your dog, especially if your dog has never worn boots before.

winter dog walking boots

Here are some tips for getting your dog to wear boots and other winter paw care tips:

    • If your dog has trouble wearing boots, try a variety that is more pliable rather than preformed boots. These fit all paws better.

    • Felt or fleece boots can be great for getting your dog used to wearing boots as they are quite malleable. However, since these boots are not waterproof, they don't work well for long walks where snow will melt through or for sleet and slush weather. In fact, if these boots get wet, they can actually make your canine's footpads even colder than his bare paws would be. Choose a waterproof variety instead.

    • Many dogs dislike boots because they cannot feel the ground while wearing them. Try thin rubber dog boots (kind of like balloons for your dog's paws). These boots may not have much insulation, but they keep your dog's footpads dry, which is the most important function of winter dog walking boots.

    • Try, try, try! Dog boots come in so many different styles and materials. Find one that works best with your dog.

    • Try one paw at a time. Even let your dog go outside with just one or two boots on, particularly when it is quite cold. Once he feels the difference, he may be more willing to wear them.

    • If your dog is ever outside in the winter without boots or with just paw wax on, make sure you rinse and dry their paws with warm water and a towel or a pre-moistened pet wipe when they come back inside. You want to make sure any road chemicals or salt is rinsed off before your dog licks their paws and to prevent irritation.

    • Moisturize paws in the winter with a paw balm or dog skin conditioner such as organic coconut oil. Be sure to choose a pet-safe, all-natural product instead of just any human cream or petroleum-based product, as your dog will surely ingest some of it when licking his paws.

    • If your dog's paws do become cracked or irritated, help them recover quickly with a paw repair salve or medicated spray for dogs

    • Keep your dog's nails trimmed. Long or jagged nails will easily catch on the fabric inside the boot or make the boots uncomfortable to put on or wear. Learn how to trim your dog's nails at home to make sure your dog's boots fit right. 

 

Best Dog Boots for Winter

As you can imagine, there exist many different types of dog boots. Let’s talk about the top five boots available.

1. Muttluks Fleece-Lined Dog Boots

These Muttluks Fleece-Lined Boots are comfortable for your dog with a stretchy cuff and a reflective stripe on the strap. The snug and comfortable fit allow your dog to adapt to these boots quickly.

2. Muttluks Snow Mushers Dog Boots

Another popular winter dog boot from Muttluks, the Snow Mushers have a flexible rubber sole, providing additional grip on slippery surfaces and protection from wet terrain. 

Shop All Muttluks

3. Ruffwear Summit Trex Boots

Are you looking for protection against extreme temperatures, chemicals, or salt? Or boots for rough terrain? These Ruffwear Summit Trex Boots are the perfect solution. 

Shop All Ruffwear Gear

4. RC Apex Boots

These boots are durable and made with breathable material. Additionally, the Apex Dog Boots are perfect for slippery or uneven terrain.

Shop All RC Pets Gear

5. GF Pet Elasto-Fit Boots

If you are looking for a lightweight, breathable, and water-resistant boot for your dog, then look no further. The easy slip-on design of the GF Pet Elasto-Fit Boots makes them a popular option.

Shop All GF Pet Gear

 

How to Measure Dog Feet for Boots

For dog boots to be comfortable and effective, they need to fit properly. Dog boots should go on with relative ease, but not shift, twist or slide easily when your dog is walking in them.

Boots that are too tight or the wrong shape will be a pain to get on and will probably be uncomfortable for your dog to walk in. Loose fitting boots may go on easily, but are likely to slip off or twist around on your dogs foot. 

So, how can you make sure that you find the perfect fitting dog boots? Start by measuring your dogs paws. Most dog boots are sized based on the width of your dogs paws. For this, you want to measure the widest part of your dogs paw. 

If your dog is in between sizes, it's always better to choose the larger size, or look for a different boot style. Like human shoes, sizing and fit are different. Just because your dogs paw measurement match the boot, doesn't mean that the fit and shape of the boot will be right for your dog.

Be prepared to try your dogs boots on them on and practice walking in the house. This way the boots can be returned if they don't fit comfortably or securely. 

Check out How to Measure Your Dog for tips for sizing all your dogs outdoor gear and apparel.

 

Dog Boot Alternatives

Some dogs just won't wear boots, and other dogs who are more suited for cold weather may not need a full insulated boot. But, these dogs can still benefit from road chemical and salt protection and winter dryness by using a dog boot alternative.

Paw Wax

puppy boots

Paw wax is a thick wax that you place on the bottom of your dog's paws to protect them from the salt and road chemicals and snow and ice on your winter walks. It will keep your dog's footpads from drying out and subsequently cracking or splitting and provides a nominal waterproof barrier. 

Paw wax is a great choice for cold-loving breeds such as Huskies, as well as any dogs who refuse to wear boots. There are a variety of options out there, but we recommend Musher's Secret.

Dog boots perform many functions for dogs in the winter and are a must-have for nearly every dog who lives in freezing temperatures. Keep your dog's paws looking and feeling their best with the right dog boots for her.

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Does your dog wear boots? Let us know which kind of dog boots works best for you in the comments below!

Written by

Amy Dyck

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