Snow is the worst. It is pretty only as it falls from the sky because once it lands, it gets ugly and slushy and makes people drive like idiots. It’s terrible to shovel and scrape, and it makes everything wet. But do you want to know its biggest offense? It hurts my dog Henry’s perfect little feet.
When dog paws are exposed to the elements of winter and the toxic chemicals we use to combat winter (ethylene glycol found in antifreeze, coolants, and road salts are poisonous), they’re at risk for cracking, drying, and frostbite. If there’s snow on the ground, Henry barks at snowmen (he’s terrified of them) and limps to go to the bathroom because snow and ice hurt his paws.
How can you winter proof your pup’s paws? Treat his feet like they’re your own. Massage them, clip them, protect them, and soak them with warm water. Think of yourself as Fido’s personal pedicurist.
Buy dog balm
Natural Dog Company, Espree, and Burt’s Bees all make great products. Before using the balm, make sure his paw is clean and ready. Do not use human balm on your pup’s dry and cracked paw pads as it could soften the his pads and lead to unwarranted injury. If your dog has long hair, use a clipper to trim it to ensure none of the hair comes in contact with the ground — ice balls that form in and between his pads are as painful as they sound. Once his hair (and nails) are trimmed, apply a thin layer of dog wax or protective balm to help protect his paws outside.
Wipe her paws
After your walk, immediately wash her paws with warm water to wipe away any salt or chemicals so she doesn’t track them around or ingest them. (Doggy wet wipes like Nature’s Miracle or Earthbath are also great, but what’s better than a nice warm paw soak from Mom and Dad?) Try your best to keep her away from roads and sidewalks that have been heavily treated with salts and de-icers as antifreeze is poisonous.
Buy dog boots (with or without the fur)
There are dog boots for every dog – boots for hikers, puddle-jumpers, and joggers – but the best boots for winter are thick, durable, warm, and waterproof. What’s more, since your dog’s feet are different sizes (just like yours!), it’s best to take him to the store to try them on.
If you can’t do that (or don’t want to because it will be a horrifying experience for everyone involved), make sure you follow the instructions on the company’s web site or product because each company suggests a certain way to measure your dog’s paws. When buying the shoes, it’s important to consider fit and comfort. Make sure they’re not too loose or tight, that they’re sturdy enough for walking, and that they have good sole traction.
Dog boots are primarily made with one of three materials: rubber, leather, or nylon. Rubber boots are best for dogs with allergies. They offer superior protection and flexibility, prevent furniture and carpet stains, and help with traction. Leather boots are best for working dogs and dogs that are always cold. They are normally lightweight and non-chafing with fleece lining, but tough enough to sustain rough or jagged terrain. Nylon boots are best for dogs that are always on the go and hate being bothered. They are comfortable and warm, but easy to wear and remove. My dog is a huge pain in the butt, and I think nylon boots are the easiest to force onto him.
Listen, putting dog boots (four of them!) on your pup isn’t easy. They hate them just like they hate those Halloween costumes and winter coats and Santa hats you make them wear each year. But unlike that apparel, dog boots are actually beneficial and more important than a laugh or Instagram post. After scouring reviews and receiving advice from doggy mom and dads, I put together this list of the best dog boots for your furry snow angel:
East Side Sherpa Dog Boot – Talk about boots with the fur! If your dog (and you) care about style and protection, these boots (that remind me of UGGs) are perfect. They feature a faux suede design, Sherpa accents, and rubber soles that are sure to keep her paws pristine and protected.
Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots – If your pup’s more of the athletic type, he’ll howl for these durable, flexible boots that look like boxing gloves. They are easy to put on and difficult to slip off and use Velcro straps to fasten them in place. The sole performs in wet, dry, hot, or cold conditions.
Pawz Water-Proof Dog Boot – I must admit, although I love their website (it’s very interactive and colorful), I was a little hesitant about adding these boots to the list. Why, you ask? Because they look like deflated water balloons that provide zero protection. I added them because the more I read about them, the more I wanted a pair both for myself and for Henry. Made of natural rubber, they are 100 percent biodegradable and fit on easily and securely without zippers or straps. Most importantly, since they’re more like socks than shoes, these natural-feeling boots still provide protection while allowing your dog to still feel like a dog.
Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots – Although these boots are pricier, they receive fantastic reviews and provide ultimate traction and flexibility for your pup. The boots have non-marking outsoles and tightly woven air mesh to keep dirt and debris out and keep your pup’s paws safe and warm.
Where can you find these boots that were made for walkin’? Yes, Zappos has a great pet department, and yes, I have shopped there. PetSmart and BaxterBoo also offer a wide selection of pet shoes and socks. Once he has booties for his feet, teach him how to shovel so he can earn his keep!