Going hiking with your dog in tow is extremely popular, but you are going on some tough terrain as them, and they’re not wearing anything to protect their feet. This can leave many owners wondering if they should do something, and whether or not their dogs need to wear hiking boots.
Your dog does not need to wear hiking boots, but it could be a good idea to offer their paws some extra protection. This is especially true when you are aware that a trail you will be venturing onto is known for having some rocky terrain, but some dogs simply won’t like wearing them.
Below, we won’t just look at this question in more detail, but also answer some more of the questions surrounding this entire issue of dog hiking boots. But before we get into the pros and cons of hiking boots for dogs, we must first establish what we mean by dog shoes for hiking.
Dog shoes for hiking are shoes you strap onto their paws that protect them when out on the trail. Considering trails are not always the most well looked after places, it can be quite easy for your dog to pick up a cut or some form of injury. Hiking shoes for dogs are designed to prevent that.
Whether or not your dog should wear boots when hiking largely comes down to the conditions on the trail on which you are hiking. If the terrain is notably rough, and if the temperatures are expected to be very high, it may be worth considering getting some hiking boots for your dog.
The answer here is more complicated than just giving a simple yes or no. These shoes will not only stop small sharp stones cutting their paws, but they also offer protection from extreme temperatures.
If you hike in a warm climate during summer, then it’s easy for your dog to actually burn their paws, and that’s obviously not a good thing! Of course, during a winter hike it’s the opposite in trying to stop ice and frost from damaging their paws. But in general, the intention is to help your dog to avoid hurting their paws.
However, there’s another reason why you may want to have your dog wearing these special shoes, and it’s to do with grip. You see, grip is key to a dog on the trail and everywhere else, and while it’s not a big problem, hiking shoes can make an important difference.
Let’s face it, there will be times where the terrain does not have too much grip, and that can pose a problem for your dog. These special dog hiking shoes actually have grippy material built into their sole, just like your own hiking boots, and that means your dog will be in a much better position to clamber up those slippery slopes without you having to stress and worry about them.
Many will argue that it’s unnatural for dogs to wear any kind of shoes, and that comes across as a negative thing. However, just because something is unnatural does not have to always translate into something bad.
So, what we prefer to do is to look at the key things that hiking shoes for dogs can offer, and there are a number of different positives associated with them. Being aware of these will help you decide whether or not you want to have your dog wearing hiking shoes.
The Unnatural Argument
Some vets will argue against dog hiking shoes and state that your dog’s paws are not designed to have things over them, and there is some truth in that. However, no dog owner wants to see their pet in distress and pain caused by a paw injury. That is where dog shoes can certainly come into their own.
It is imperative that you weigh up everything before deciding. You may also wish to consult with a vet in advance to get their feedback. Also, you certainly wouldn’t think about getting a dog to wear boots every single time they go out on a hike. It all depends on the trail itself.
It Depends On The Trail
Let’s face it, we all know certain trails are better cared for than others. Some are not that different from a normal walk in a park, and you wouldn’t have your dog wearing boots for something such as that.
So, it’s a matter of deciding what the chances are of your dog possibly picking up an injury due to the terrain. If you feel unhappy about the terrain, then having your dog wearing boots could be the best way to go.
Conditions change everything, and this is certainly true when underfoot conditions are slippery or icy. Having your dog wearing boots when it’s snowing is therefore a great idea. This is especially the case if there’s also ice around, as that is when things can get very tricky.
Snowy conditions lead to less grip, and then there’s also the issue of the cold. Your dog is going to quickly feel that their paws are freezing, and that’s not a comfortable thing for them to experience. Boots will counteract both of these issues. They will help keep their paws warm, and also provide them with some additional grip to allow them to enjoy their walk as much as possible.
They Prevent Cuts
Boots or shoes can reduce the chances of your dog cutting their paw on the rough terrain. While their paw pads are designed to be able to withstand a lot of punishment, the terrain you will be walking on is often different to the relatively smooth and perfect surfaces your dog walks on in suburbia, or walking along the grass in your garden.
Small pieces of broken stone can be exceptionally sharp, and they can easily dig into a pad, or even between pads, resulting in your dog having what can be a very painful injury.Dog hiking shoes are the way to hopefully prevent this particular issue. However, you must provide your dog with the correct shoes, or you run the risk of hurting their paws in other ways (more on that soon).
Although you may not have heard of it before, paw burn is a real thing when your dog is hiking around in very warm conditions. Have you ever taken your shoes off and put your bare feet on the ground in the middle of a scorching hot day and felt how hot the ground is? Imagine not being able to have a break from that when walking for hours and covering miles.
Well, dog hiking shoes put an insulating surface between paw and ground, and this can make a huge difference. By breaking this direct contact, it means you can stop your dog from developing yet another extremely painful condition.
Flipping to the other end of the weather extremes, we have the fact that dog hiking shoes can prevent ice burn as well. Once again, it’s all to do with the surface conditions they are walking on, and walking for miles on ice and snow has the potential to be extremely uncomfortable for your dog.
I ask you to once again think about your own self and if you had to walk in those conditions with your bare feet. While dog paws are designed to handle rough conditions, at least compared to human feet, excessive periods of time walking on ice and snow can still be very uncomfortable for them.
Dogs need to be able to get some sort of traction under their paws to be able to walk, and even more so when running, and dog hiking shoes can provide them with some additional traction.
This is important when you venture into areas where it’s perhaps slightly wet and you’re walking over stones. Think about hiking near a waterfall and how the surrounding area can feel almost slimy. You don’t want to walk on it for fear of falling, and your dog is in the same predicament. In this case, dog hiking shoes can be a very useful investment.
As we get older, we feel we are no longer as stable or comfortable on our feet as when we were younger. Well, dogs feel the same way. As their owner, doing whatever you can to counteract this is key if you still want to bring your pooch along with you on the trail, and hiking shoes are a wonderful item to have on hand.
Just because your dog is older it does not mean you need to stop taking them out on a hike. However, as they get slower, it’s just comforting for them to know they have some help in getting additional grip and stability while walking. That is something they can undoubtedly get from these special shoes.
But we must also consider the cons of dog hiking shoes, as they’re not the perfect solution that they may appear to be!
While it can take some time for any dog to learn how to walk around with something on their paws, it may be the case that your dog is one of those that never adapts. It might just feel too alien to them, and you will see that they are in some clear discomfort as a result.
This feeling of them wearing boots may stress your dog out, and that’s not what you want. So, while you need to give them some time to potentially adapt, be aware that they may never come around to feeling comfortable with them. If this is the case, you should not force your dog to wear hiking boots.
Dogs use their paws to help with their balance, so anything that is then put on top of their paws has the potential to mess with this. Clearly this is not a good thing, but they will largely learn how to adapt.
It does mean you need to pay close attention to how your dog is coping when they are first introduced to wearing boots. We would certainly encourage you to only have them on your dog for a short time at first, and to do so at home so you know they won’t hurt themselves.
You need to buy the correct size of shoes for your dog because, just as with humans, the wrong size is going to hurt. The wrong size will put additional pressure on their paws, and this can be very painful on even a short hike. But before we get into the details of choosing the right dogs shoes for hiking, let’s consider the differences between two types of dog shoe you might come across.
During your time searching for dog hiking boots online, you may come across the terms ‘dog shoes’ and ‘dog booties,’ and you might be wondering if there is a difference between the two.
Most of the time it’s simply a difference in terminology rather than a fundamental difference between the two products. At times, there may be a difference in the length of the footwear, but we are often talking about something so slight that it may be tough to see any change.
There should be no real difference in how dog shoes or boots or booties are attached, and nor should there be much of a difference when it comes to the weight of the items either.
However, the way in which dog booties may cover more of their ankle could be something your dog finds tough to deal with. If you are concerned about that, then trying a pair of shoes first, and allowing them to get used to it all, could be the best course of action. However, terminology aside, let’s now consider what you should look for when buying shoes for your dog.
When choosing dog shoes for hiking, it’s important you take several factors into consideration. Just as we may suffer when we wear ill-fitting shoes, the same will happen to your dog. As a responsible owner, you want to take time with your selection to ensure your dog is not left crippled as a result of the shoes.
As with our own hiking shoes, you need to have the correct size of dog shoes. After all, not all dogs have the same sizes of paws, so it makes sense that you will also have different sizes of dog hiking boots. Measure according to the brand you plan on buying to make life easier.
The Level Of Grip
The soles of the boots need to provide your dog with some real grip. Traction is important on a hike, and it’s one of the main reasons you have your dog wearing the boots in the first place. This means the material on the sole needs to be textured. Check what the brand says about the grip to see if it’s suitable for the terrain or weather conditions you will be walking in.
It’s also important that the sole of the boot is flexible. It cannot be too rigid as it would make something that is already unnatural to wear even harder for your dog to contend with. However, the sole must still be capable of offering protection from the conditions, so it’s a balance between flexibility and rigidity.
Look for boots that are easy to adjust, and this is usually done via Velcro straps on top. Also, Velcro is fairly secure, and it makes the boot easy to remove should you see that your dog is in distress while wearing it.
If your dog is really struggling with the idea of wearing hiking boots, and they likely will struggle at first, then one way to avoid this is to purchase a pair that ensures their ankles are not impeded. This will make it easier as it does feel less restrictive to your dog, and it may increase the chances of them taking to wearing them.
The final point is to ensure the shoes themselves are lightweight. Now, this shouldn’t be a problem as every manufacturer should have already made sure that this is the case, but there is some variation in the weight across the different options. Go for the lightest you can find, as this limits how unnatural it will feel for your dog.
It’s not always going to be easy to get your dog to be able to walk in hiking shoes. Many dogs will find it exceptionally strange to have anything on their paws, and it will take some time for them to get used to it. However, you should certainly make sure you stick at it if you think dogs shoes will be a good choice for your planned hikes.
The first thing to do is to put the boots on the floor beside your dog and let them sniff them and check them out. It’s going to be tough putting them on your dog for the first time, and this may make things just that little bit easier.
Once they have had the opportunity to check out the boots, you should put just a single boot on a single paw. Don’t let them walk around just yet as this will be such an alien thing to them that it will be quite disconcerting at first. Also, give them a treat as an act of positive reinforcement.
After the treat, let your dog go and prepare yourself because you will likely encounter some antics almost straight away! This will involve your dog trying to throw off the shoe as they know something is different.
Be prepared to spend time with your dog simply having one boot on. This can be a major thing for them to contend with, so don’t rush them. It is better taking time here to then allow them to enjoy a hike safely with you without any issues or discomfort.
Once they have had the chance to walk around wearing a single boot, stop them and add a second boot before letting them walk around once more. Then, repeat the process until they are wearing all four boots at one time. This is the best and easiest way of helping them grow accustomed to wearing them.
However, if your dog begins to display some distress once you get to three or four boots, stop. Go back to the start and introduce one boot to them at a time, and take it slow. See where they start to have some difficulty, and then spend longer reassuring them at that point that everything is fine.
The best approach is to keep them at home while they grow accustomed to wearing the boots. It makes life so much easier, and they will still encounter different surfaces if you then allow them out into your yard for a short time. Do not take them on a hike wearing boots until you see they are running around without a care in the world while wearing them.
Getting your dog used to wearing boots takes both time and patience on your part, with a willingness to repeat the process mentioned above time and time again until your dog is fully comfortable wearing the boots. Time put in at this stage will pay dividends in the future.
The last thing anybody wants to happen is for your dog to pick up some sort of paw injury. Protecting their paws does require some work, and I recommend checking their paws on a regular occasion while out hiking. You may not even be aware that the terrain is tough on their paws, but a dog could easily stand on a broken shard of glass or a sharp edge to a stone and develop an injury.
So, we have discussed wearing boots to help protect their paws, but there is also the option of paw wax. This does give a certain coating to their paws, and it does make a bit of a difference, but it fails to have the same impact as boots.
However, if you do not want to put wax or boots on their paws, then be prepared to use some items from your first-aid kit should you see they have a problem. Even adding a bandage to a damaged paw can make a difference, and it could prevent an infection.
Know When To Stop
If your dog does damage their paw while hiking, then be prepared to cut the hike short and get them back home as quickly as possible. A cut or a bad bruise on their paw will cause them problems for several days, so don’t be surprised to see your dog limping around for some time if they sustain an injury.
But ultimately, investing in either boots or paw wax can help. However, hiking boots are undoubtedly the best option that provide the greatest level of protection.
Your dog does not need to wear hiking boots, but they may be worth considering if you plan to hike on particularly rough or slippery terrain, or if you are hiking in exceptionally hot or cold weather. It can take time for your dog to get used to wearing hiking boots, but they can protect their paws.