The first part of paw care is knowing when and where its acceptable for your dog to run o'natural, and when they might need some protection. The basics are fairly simple, just think of the extremes. If it's too cold, or too hot out, their paws will feel it first. The walking surface can play a major factor on how severe these conditions are, so here are a couple examples of walking surfaces to be wary of.
Different surfaces offer different challenges for the 4-legged. While grass and dirt are your dog's friend, things like asphalt are not. On a hot summer day, it's not unreasonable to assume that the asphalt will be scorching hot, but you may be surprised how little it takes. Studies have shown that concrete can reach upwards of 130-degrees even on a 77-degree day. That wouldn't feel very good barefoot....
Ice & Salt
The winter months offer a different set of challenges. If you live anywhere that snows or freezes on a regular basis you are likely familiar with road salt. While sometimes necessary to clear out stubborn ice, this road salt can wreak havoc on your dog's paws. The chemicals used in most mass-produced salt can leave burns on your dog's feet, as well as make them sick if they are left licking their paws. Unfortunately, there is a double-edged sword here, because an icy surface can be just as dangerous. The biggest concerns with Ice is often frostbite, but slipping and falling can be just as dangerous.
Some of us live in areas where rock gardens are quite prevalent. These can be great fun to explore with our pups, but there are things to worry about just as well. Rocks can have sharp edges, producing cuts if our dogs aren't careful. This is most common when dogs are running full speed, or climbing aggressively. The other side of the coin can be traction on slick rocks, such as river rocks or red rock in the desert.
Thankfully we now have many dog-specific companies making boots to protect our fur-babies from these extreme conditions. There are basically two types of K9 boots on the market, rubber sole, and fabric based.
Rubber sole boots are likely the most common option when looking at dog boots. When it comes to outright protection these boots reign supreme, in both hot and cold conditions. They offer excellent abrasion resistance on hard surfaces, as well as giving much-needed traction on slick surfaces. The only area we don't recommend these types of boots is in deep snow where they can get kicked off and lost. At Active K9 we prefer the Ruffwear brand of boots, and have a pair for each of our pack. They are incredibly durable, lasting years thus far. The only drawback can be the fit, which can be a little challenging. Thankfully Ruffwear realized this, and offers a sock set that helps negate this issue. Not all dog feet are the same, so some dogs will need the socks, and some will not.
Fabric boots have a couple advantages over their rubber-soled alternatives, making them a great addition to your dog's adventure equipment. First is the fit. Rubber boots can run the risk of twisting into the wrong position; with fabric boots, there is no wrong position! Slip them on and you are good to go. They are also substantially cheaper, making them easier to replace if lost. In our opinion, this makes them the perfect deep snow boot on the market. But they are also adequate for other conditions, with the exception of heat and abrasion resistance.
If you are interested in picking up a pair of dog boots stop by Active K9 and check out our Ruffwear selection. This is the best way to make sure you find the right size for your dog, as well as getting some helpful tips on how to break them in. Happy trails!