Putting booties on cats is awesome for entertainment value, but really not necessary from the cat's point of view.
*A simple test for 'when' to bootie your dog is to run your bare hand along the surface of the snow. If it is sharp and abrasive to your touch, you would want to put on booties.
*Frozen gravel is also hard on a dog's feet and booties will help with that.
*Also if the snow is wet and good 'snowman snow' it will likely create snowballs in between your dog's toes, so booties are a good idea.
(You also can trim the hair on your dogs feet level with the pads to help with this too).
*Booties are generally not a good idea on ice. Dogs have great natural traction and will quickly learn to restrict their activity levels to what the footing can tolerate. In my experience booties on ice just wind up causing more spills than they help.
I am not a fan of the booties with rubber bottoms for traction - more on that later.
*I am a fan of Cordura material for booties. It is light enough to allow the dog's feet to breathe (remember - dogs sweat through their feet), inexpensive, and offers good protection.
*Polar fleece booties look all soft and cushy, but they wear badly, freeze easily and get sloppy/heavy when wet.
*Really heavy weight Cordura, rubber, more expensive/long lasting booties with traction bottoms and the like may wear better, but those booties don't allow a dog to sweat efficiently - and remember while it may feel cold out to you, it likely won't be as cold for your dog - especially a northern or double-coated breed.
*Get booties with Velstretch or some sort of stretchy Velcro closures on them. When you put them on, do that as tightly (within reason - don't strain yourself doing it) as you can. The dog moving around will keep blood flow moving well. They should not, however, be left on the dog for extended periods of downtime, as it they may cause swelling (you will notice that one of the very first tasks a racing musher does when coming into a checkpoint is to take the booties off their dogs).
*When fitting booties, don't make the mistake of putting too large booties on. Yes, they are easier to get on when larger, but imagine running around in socks one or two sizes too big. NOT COMFORTABLE.
*When getting your dog used to booties, put them on and then IMMEDIATELY go do something fun outside with your dog. If you put them on in the house and give them time to figure out how to take them off, you will have a lifelong problem. Plus, booties on a linoleum floor are slippery and a bad experience with them may make your dog nervous of wearing them.
*Make sure the dog's foot is clean of snow and debris before putting the bootie on. We all know what walking with a pebble in your shoe feels like!
*When you come back in the house or yard, immediately take the booties off your dog, check for any holes from wear and hang them to fully dry before using again.
*If there are ANY holes in them, pitch them. Snow getting in through the holes is a worse experience for the dog than being barefoot. Booties are relatively inexpensive and should be considered 'disposable' after 40 - 70 miles of wear (depending on conditions).
*If your dog has dewclaws make sure to check under the dewclaw for wear or blisters. Booties tend to press on the dewclaw and can cause issues. A bit of Gold Bond medicated powder on that spot can help heal any abrasions.
And if you are wondering who we recommend for dog booties - the answer is SIMPLE www.dogbooties.com
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Now get outside and enjoy the winter with your dog!!!