Does My Dog Need Winter Boots?

As winter approaches, you may start to think about how you're going to protect your dog from the ice and snow and cold weather. While a dog jacket is a great start, you're also contemplating investing in a good pair of doggy winter boots.

Adorable Pug wearing red boots, in the snow in winter
credit: MarcBruxelle/iStock/GettyImages

However, you're not sure if boots are necessary or if they're just going to make your pup uncomfortable. Haven't dogs survived thousands of years without them? Surely their paws are tough, and their hair will keep them warm, right?

While dogs are very adaptable and tougher than humans in many ways, your pup may still need a good pair of winter boots this season.

Why dogs need boots

In the winter and cold weather, there are a few different hazards that you need to watch out for when you take your dog for a walk. For instance, if there is snow on the ground, the melting snow can get stuck in longhaired dogs' paws and then turn into ice. This ice can swiftly become painful for your dog. If your dog has long hair, and you notice this is happening, then you should consider buying winter boots for him.

Another scenario when dogs need boots occurs if it's freezing outside. Your dog may get frostbite on his paws; you'll know if the paw is gray, pale, or blue, the paw is cold, there are blisters or swelling, your dog whines or yelps when you touch it, and there is dead or blackened skin. If the temperature drops below freezing, put some winter boots on your dog to avoid frostbite from happening.

If you live in an area where the city is de-icing the sidewalks and streets with salt, you'll definitely need to get a pair of doggy boots. Salt is very bad for dogs' paws, plus, your dog may try to lick it off. Ingesting salt is especially harmful to dogs with kidney problems. Also, if you're going on a long walk with your dog over salty sidewalks and roads, he may get chemical burns on his paws. If he's limping at the end of the walk, a chemical burn may be the issue, and boots are going to be necessary.

A Spanish Water Dog wearing booties and running through the snow
credit: Julia Christe/fStop/GettyImages

What to look for in dog boots

When shopping for dog boots, look for ones that are water resistant, since you'll be taking them on the ice and snow. The sole should have a good grip on it so that your dog won't be slipping on the ice as well. Find ones with Velcro straps that you can easily adjust, and make sure the sole is flexible. Of course, find winter boots with good reviews from other dog owners so you know that you're making the right selection.

To figure out what size boots your dog wears, measure his paws. The best way to do this is to place him on a blank sheet of paper, and then draw a line at the front and the back of his paw, including his toenail. Take measuring tape and make a note of how long the paw is. Then, follow the same method to determine the width of his paws. You can also put a ruler on the floor and make your dog stand on it, or, when he's lying down, hold a tape measure up to his paws. The dog boot manufacturer should have a size chart on its page. If your dog's paw is between two sizes, choose the larger size so that he's not uncomfortable in his boots.

Dogs running in winter
credit: Paws on the Run Photography/Moment/GettyImages

Getting your dog used to his boots

Your dog won't naturally love his boots. Instead of putting them on him for the first time right before a walk, let him try them out around the house beforehand. As he's walking in them, give him treats and praise. As soon as you come back from a walk with your dog, take off the booties, since they can get pretty warm when your dog is indoors.