Your dog’s paw pads are not naturally tough. Many people think a dog’s paws are like your shoes. They’re not. Your dogs’ paws need to gradually harden and develop callus’ over time to be able to handle long hikes and rough terrain. If you attempt to take your dog on a long hike without proper training and preparation their paws will end up a bloody and painful mess.
So, do dogs need boots for hiking?
You should at the very least carry dog boots with you on every hiking trip. Boots protect your dog’s paws from rugged terrain, hot rocks, snow or just the general wear and tear of a long hike.
They’re also extremely important if your dog injures his paw pad/s. It’s much easier to keep wounds clean, dry and protected with a boot on and helps keep bandages/dressings in place.
Check out our 9 best dog boots for hiking...
While dog shoes and boots have their merit, you shouldn’t put your dog in boots from beginning to end of a hiking trail if they’re not completely needed.
Most dogs don’t really like to wear boots or shoes. So if you want your doggo to enjoy hiking as much as you do, boots should only be used when they are necessary.
Rather than sticking your dog in boots from the beginning, you should build up your dog’s paw pads resilience. To do this you simply need to start slow and short. Take your dog on short, slow and easy hikes and gradually build up the length and terrain difficulty. Over time, your dog’s paw pads will harden, grow callus’ and in turn become tougher.
That doesn’t mean however, that there is not a time and place to put shoes on your dog without injury. If there are parts of a trail that are extremely rugged and rough, then absolutely put shoes on your dog, but just be sure to take them off again when the landscape is more comfortable.
The only time dogs should be in boots or shoes from the beginning to end of a hike is in snow/ice or extremely hot weather.
Dog boots are not a necessity per se. But carrying dog boots with you on a hike is.
Your dog likely won’t need to wear boots most of the time. But they are always important for emergencies. If your dog injures their paw pad it is extremely painful. And to continue to walk on it would be unbearable.
Carrying dog boots with you means you can tend to the wound and then put a dog boot on to protect the bandage/dressing and stop the injury from getting wet and dirty.
They’re also necessary for harsh temperatures and terrains. Snow/ice or hot surfaces call for booties on your dog. Sharp, jagged rocks also call for boots.
The best way to protect your dog’s paws when hiking is through the use of dog booties in extreme environments, and a light coating of a protective layer such as Vaseline or Musher’s Secret the rest of the time.
Vaseline/Musher’s Secret helps to prevent your dog’s paws from getting too wet or too dry. Both can cause problems for your dog’s feet. Proper care, active prevention, catching problems early and having a doggie first aid kit on hand is the best way to keep your dog’s feet protected and healthy.
Dog boots aren’t cruel as long as they are used for the correct reasons (i.e not just because it looks “cute”). Most dogs don’t really like wearing boots. But in some instances it is in your dog’s best interest for them to wear dog booties. They are ideal for injuries, long or difficult hiking trails, snow and ice, and hot rocks or pavements.
Dogs require the use of all of their pads on their feet to balance, so wearing boots/shoes can create disorientation and confusion. They also like to use their feet and claws for traction and grip. So placing shoes or boots on your dog should only be done when you know they need protection.
Along with this, many people don’t buy their dogs the correct size of bootie, which as with humans, an incorrectly fitting shoe creates difficulty walking. Getting correct fitting shoes is extremely important for your dog’s comfort and happiness when wearing boots.
The best way to get your dog comfortable with walking in boots is short, regular trips with the boots on.
Starting at home and allowing your dog to walk around in them for a short while and then removing them.
Then build up the time they wear them, and the different environments. After a while, your dog will get used to wearing the boots.
Vaseline is great for protecting your dog’s paw pads. Vaseline is non-toxic (but try to limit your dog licking their paws with it on), and is great for outdoor use to prevent your dog’s paws from getting too wet or too dry. It’s also great to put on dry, cracked paw pads.
Just be sure to apply only a thin layer. Don’t swamp your dog’s paws with a thick layer of Vaseline.
Coconut oil is a fantastic restorative treatment for your dog’s paws. Coconut oil is great for - dry paws, sore paws, preventing infection, speeding up healing and treating burns.
Wax such as Musher’s Secret is great for snow, ice, and salt. The wax creates a breathable barrier whilst simultaneously moisturizing your dog’s paw pads. It helps treat and prevent sore and cracked paws from dryness. It also prevents little snowballs from forming between your doggie’s paws. However, it doesn’t really work to prevent tears in your dog’s paw pads from rough terrain.
If you’re taking your dog on soft terrain but want to keep your dog’s paws in good condition and offer some added protection against the elements then wax is the perfect solution.
If you hike your dog on rough terrain like granite then wax won’t be adequate. For sharp rocky environments nothing beats dog booties. However, that’s not to say that wax isn’t a great added extra for keeping your dog’s paw pads in lovely condition.
In short having both in your arsenal is the best option. They both have their merits and can work alongside each other. But if you have to pick, then wax is great for soft terrains to protect against snow, ice, and salt, and booties are best in harsh terrains to prevent tears and cuts and protect from snow, ice and hot rocks/pavements.
Dogs need shoes in summer just as much as they do in winter. Ignoring the all year round use for rough terrains, hot days can make rocks, pavements and the ground scorching hot.
This hot ground will burn and scorch your dog's paw pads leaving them extremely sore and sensitive. Always make sure your dog's paws are protected on hot days.
Professional dog outfitters recommend using boots that were originally designed for sled dogs. They are made out of a thin, tough material that is lightweight and gives your dog better usage of their feet. DogBooties.com supply these proper types of boots. They’re cheap, durable and 100% made in America.
This type of thin bootie is much better for your dog than the “fancy” type of boots that have soles on the bottom. They don’t usually conform to your dog's feet very well which affects their balance. Though obviously if this is the only type you have access to, they are much better than nothing.
Hopefully all of this has answered your question to do dogs need boots for hiking? If you still have any lingering questions, please leave us a comment below!
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