Its pretty common for hikers or just people in general to want to protect our feet, however the same thought isn’t always given to our furry companions. There isn’t any one right answer due to the massive variety of both dogs and climates that they live in. I will be talking about my experience with both a small dog (12 pounds and 6 pounds) and that they are acclimated to a coastal desert climate ( usually around between 70F and 90F year round). There are a few different factors when we talk about the condition of our dogs pads, and what that actually means for them.
- How toughened the pads are.
- The terrain being covered
- To bootie?
On a lot of different forums or places that give suggestions for taking dogs hiking suggest to toughen your dogs pads gradually. This is good advice, however it is very dependent on your dog, my dog Minnow for example is very into keeping herself clean and will spend hours a day cleaning her feet meticulously, this means that pretty much any toughening we do on trails or on walks will be minimized greatly just by her preferences. Allowing your dog to walk and play on safe surfaces will help with some dangers while hiking such as thorns, or sharper rocks, or other miscellaneous hazards.
Not all hiking surfaces are made equal, for you or your dog. A lot of dogs will show discomfort when walking if they are being forced to walk on a surface that they don’t like, however there are a lot of dogs who put up with it just because their owners ask. some of the dangerous or painful surfaces to keep in mind could be:
- small rocks or sharp rocks
- asphalt on a warm/hot day
- solid rock surfaces on a hot day
- icy roads or trails if salt has been used
- trails that are covered with thorns or spiky seed pods
I am lucky in the sense that Minnow is very expressive in letting me know what she is thinking, but if she wasn’t then she could very easily burn her paws or get too cold. So if your dog isn’t as immediate in telling you their comfort level then take some time and really pay attention to them.
The heat can pose some very immediate problems for dogs feet. any surface like asphalt or even large rocky surfaces can hold in immense amount of heat and on hot enough days can cause almost instant burns sure to ruin any walk or hike. This is an important thing to keep in mind when choosing where to walk or hike with your dog, and if possible avoid the roads on hot days. A good way to test is to put the back of your hand to a surface and if you are unable to hold it there then it is too hot for your dogs bare paw.
The cold as well can cause some severe problems to your dog as well. Generally dogs are fine in cold weather due to cross current exchange in their pads (basically the blood insulates in a cool sciency way). However in instances where a road has been salted this will make the temperature of the snow drop very cold and cause frostbite very quickly in your dogs feet. Another consideration in cold is your dogs size / coat / and where they are acclimated too. Minnow and I recently took a trip to Flagstaff, Arizona, and although we missed the worst of winter the temperatures easily dropped to near freezing. When Minnow went out in her jacket layers she would start shivering after just a couple minutes meaning she was loosing too much heat through her paws for the amount of body fat she has. My moms dog Pixie however has no problem being out in the cool weather with just a jacket on, with long trips she will get cold, but she takes a lot longer even though she is half the weight.
So should you look into booties for your pup? It depends on your pup and the adventures you want to take them on. After some of the more intense hiking and the more intense weather I am going to be looking at getting Minnow a good fitting pair so we can keep her paws as protected as possible. For some dogs a product like paw wax can be all the protection they need, and some dogs still are able to go out with nothing on and have no problems.
Know your dog and know your adventure!