Whether it's ice and snow, road salts, or sharp debris, walking in winter has many dangers for your dog's paws. Learning how to train your dog to wear boots can make their favourite winter activities safer and more enjoyable.
there are many reasons for a dog to start wearing boots in the winter. We want to keep our dogs safe from these dangers.
Training your dog to wear winter boots can seem pointless and frustrating, but if you take the time to teach them how to wear boots, it can allow your dog to participate in many more outdoor activities and handle the elements safely.
Dog boots may seem a bit silly, but they are so useful that there is a whole market for dog winter boots! There are many benefits of winter dog boots, but without training your dog to trust and properly wear dog boots, you will likely find the boots ineffective or just frustrating.
Here are some things that you need to know when training your dog to wear winter boots:
Why Do Dogs Need Winter Boots?
Freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and ice-melting chemicals can all do some serious damage to your dog's paws. There are a few really important reasons to get your dog winter boots. A few of these reasons include:
- Protection against the weather.
- Protection against injury.
- Protection against chemicals in the environment.
For obvious reasons, winter boots protect your dog’s paws against the weather. Cold temperatures are very harsh on a dog’s paw pads. It can cause the pads to crack and bleed. In more extreme cases, frostbite can set in on your dog’s toes.
Less obvious, but still important, is protection against injuries caused by the environment. Rocks hidden beneath snow drifts can easily cut up a dog’s paws. Shards of ice are nearly invisible and can cause a lot of damage and pain.
Even something seemingly innocent, like packed snow, can cause a lot of problems. Dr. Britannie England-Rendón from Marvelous Dogs told Homes Alive Pets:
“Packed ice and snow in your dog's fur and paws can be very irritating.”
They form when your dog’s body heat melts the snow, and it rapidly freezes again, forming ice. These ice balls pull at hair and crack the skin around it. Dog boots are the more effective way to prevent these ice balls from forming between your dog’s paw pads.
Additionally, ice melt and road salt are dangerous for dogs. It is so harmful that a large enough dose of either can be fatal. Whenever your dog walks over the ice melt on the ground, they are picking up chemicals on their paws.
Later, when they groom themselves, they will lick their paws and will ingest the poison that way. A fatal dose of ice melt will not often come from residue on your dog's paws. It can, however, make them feel pretty sick. Regular ingestion, even in small doses, can lead to a bigger problem.
How to Train Your Dog to Wear Boots
The key to training your dog to wear winter boots is to go at their own pace. If your dog has never worn anything on its feet, then suddenly has to wear tight, uncomfortable shoes, they are not going to like it.
A better option is to slowly introduce the dogs to the boots so that they don’t view them as a bad thing. Here are simple steps for training your dog to wear winter dog boots:
Associate the Boots With a Reward
Start by socializing your dog to the boots. Have the boots around, let your dog sniff them, and allow them to start recognizing the boots as harmless. Keep small dog training treats on hand so that you can reward them every time your dog touches or sniffs the boots.
Eventually, your dog will start to associate the boots with a tasty snack and be excited to see them. This will make the next steps easier.
Practice Touching Paws
When the dog is happy and calm, sit next to them and try playing with their paws. If your dog is used to their paws being touched and handled, they are less likely to fight you when it comes time to put on the boots.
Always make sure it's a positive experience. Don't be aggressive or get frustrated if your dog is unhappy having his paws touched at first. When your dog allows you to touch their paw, give them a small but tasty dog treat.
Keep their Nails Trimmed
Regular dog nail trims can ensure the boots are more comfortable and make them easier to put on and take off. Overgrown dog nails make it harder to find the right boot size for your pooch.
Long nails can also curve and cause paw pain, especially if they are pushing on the inside of the boot. A larger boot size can accommodate the long nails but may result in a looser fitting boot that slides and twists when they walk.
One Boot at a Time
Start with one boot at a time. Take this first boot on and off quickly the first time you put it on. This helps your dog understand that the boots aren't permanent or a punishment. Slowly increase the time that the boot remains on the dog, treating with small healthy snacks as long as the boots stay on.
It is during this time that you will want to allow the dog to walk around the house with their boot(s). Make sure to supervise and encourage your dog to keep moving, as they are likely to try to take off the boot or refuse to walk.
Once your dog starts wearing all four boots, have them walk around inside until they are completely comfortable in the boots. Play a game of tag or some indoor fetch with your pooch. Anything that will encourage your dog to walk fast or run.
This will help them learn to walk normally with the boots. The first couple of test runs will look very silly, so get out your camera!
This will also help you determine if the boots are correctly sized and shaped for your dog's paws. Look at their gait and how their paws touch the floor. The wrong-sized or shaped dog boot will cause your dog to walk unnaturally, even after they have adjusted to walking in the boots.
It's always best to practice indoors first and for several days before going outside. Once the boots have been worn outside, you might not be able to return them if you decide they aren't right for your pooch.
Don't Stop Moving
Now it is time to venture outside! Start off with short walks, slowly increasing the time outside as you go. Even with practice, your dog still may not be loving his footwear. A good practice is that once the boots are one, keep moving or keep your dog distracted.
If you stop, your dog may try to take the boots off. They need to keep walking to get comfortable and to understand that their paws feel warmer and dryer when walking in winter conditions.
It is important to remember that every dog learns and becomes comfortable at their own pace. Some dogs may be wearing boots within a few days. It may take other dogs weeks to get outside for the first time.
Patience and consistency are the most important things when training a dog to wear boots. The goal is to make the dog more comfortable, not less comfortable.
This means going at their pace and making sure they are confident with each step they take in their new attire. Some dogs even prefer to have their boots on so they don’t get their paws wet or cold!
Should You Break in Dog Boots?
It is important to break in dog boots just like you would with boots for a person. This will be key in preventing blisters or abrasions from forming on your pet’s paws.
You will want to play with the sole of the shoes to make the bottom of the boots pliable. This will make it easier for your pet to get comfortable in the boots, in addition to preventing injuries.
Small dogs especially have a hard time breaking in the soles of the boots themselves, so a sock-style dog boot is often a better choice.
Pay attention when your dog is walking in them to see where irritating rubbing may be occurring. This is often around the strap or along the outside toes. Rubbing can also be lessened by having your dog wear socks, like the Ruffwear Bark'n Boot Liners, under their winter boots to protect their paws even more!
What Happens if You Don’t Teach Your Dog to Wear Boots Properly?
If your dog refuses to walk in boots, repeatedly takes them off, or cowers when you pull out the boots, then chances are you need to go back to the drawing board and reintroduce the boots.
Dogs that don’t learn to accept the dog boots are more likely to fight you when you try to put them on, and this could lead to injury to all parties involved.
If they are reluctant to walk and try to hop around or shake off the boots, then the risk of injury is higher. It will be more difficult for your dog to break in the boots and the boots are more likely to cause irritation and changes to your dog’s gait.
The most commonly occurring safety problem seen is with boots that don’t fit properly. Just like with people, ill-fitting boots can cause blisters, sores, or, in extreme cases, sprained ankles.
If you don’t train your dog to walk properly in the boots, you will have trouble figuring out if the boots are the right size and shape for your dog’s paws.
Make Winter Walking Fun
Winter boots for your dog can be very helpful. They not only protect your dog from harmful environmental dangers like extreme weather or sharp shards of ice, but they look adorable and make trekking through the snow more fun!
Keeping your dog’s paws safe during the winter can be difficult, but teaching your dog to wear winter dog boots can make their favourite winter activities better. This will encourage your dog to play and exercise more during a season when many dogs tend to build lazy habits and put on unwanted weight.
Training your dog to walk comfortably in their winter boots can take time and dedication, but it will be worth it.
Does your dog hate wearing boots in winter? Share your story or tips with us in the comment below!