I’ve received these questions a lot over the years: Does my dog need to wear boots in the snow? Do your Dachshunds wear boots in the snow? What boots do you recommend?
Well, today I’m going to answer all of these questions in one blog post so the information is easy to find later.
I’m going to share what I’ve learned here. But first, let me tell you a little about our experience and climate where we live.
NOTE: THIS ARTICLE DEALS SPECIFICALLY WITH THE ISSUE OF DOG BOOTS AND COLD PAWS. IT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE OF HYPOTHERMIA. I WILL COVER THAT IN ANOTHER ARTICLE BUT, FOR NOW, YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE AND HERE.
I tried finding boots for my Dachshund 10 years ago when I started taking him on snowy hikes.
There weren’t a lot of options back then and I didn’t find any I was satisfied with.
It was impossible to find boots that would fit over a Dachshund’s fat feet yet be narrow enough at the ankle to cinch up tight and be comfortable.
I can’t say if any boots I tried “stayed on” or not because we never made it out of the living room. He hated boots and it wasn’t worth getting him trained to wear them if they didn’t even fit properly.
Our snow is different than in some other parts of the country.
I remember being shocked at how light and fluffy the snow in Colorado was when I visited. Here, our snow is called “Cascade Concrete”. The snow in Washington is comparatively wet and heavy.
I can tell you about how my Dachshunds do without wearing boots in our snow conditions. Although it’s likely transferable to your situation, I can’t make any promises. Your snow might be different than ours.
Also, I don’t take my Dachshunds hiking in the snow if it’s much below 25 degrees F. That temperature feels absolutely FREEZING to us.
However, I acknowledge that we live in a temperate climate and it gets much, much colder in other parts of the country.
The number of winter days in the mountain that are below 25 degrees F are not many and a temperature below 15 degrees F is very uncommon (all of this is, of course, not accounting for any wind chill factor).
Salt on the roads and sidewalks, applied to melt snow and ice, is the biggest risk for us.
We try to avoid walking on salted surfaces when we can or not to do it for long. I inspect their paws and wipe them off when we get home and we’ve never had a problem.
How A Dog’s Foot Works in the Cold
A dog’s foot doesn’t work like a human foot.
As humans, we often attribute human characteristics to our pets. We think that if our feet get cold in the winter then so do our dog’s.
That’s not necessarily true though. If fact, it’s unlikely your dog’s feet get cold.
Two articles – How dogs can walk on ice without freezing their paws and Dogs Have Built-In Snow Boots, Researchers Find – explain the differences in scientific terms.
“Dogs’ paws… have an intricate heat transfer system built in that immediately warms cold blood. Couple that system with a high amount of freeze-resistant connective tissue and fat located in the pads of the paw, and a dog’s paw rivals that of a penguin’s wing for the ability to stay warm in crazy-cold climates.” (an arctic fox is also referenced in one of the articles)
Now, domesticated dogs are not penguins or arctic foxes of course. Most domestic pets not used to living in harsh conditions year-round.
However, the point is still the same – a dog’s paws stay warmer way longer than a human foot would.
With some simple precautions, dog boots may not be necessary.
Protecting a Dog’s Paws Without Boots
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Your dog may not need boots in the ice and snow. It’s likely that they don’t if it’s just plain snow or ice (no de-icing salts).
This is, of course, for you to decide based on research, the knowledge about your dog’s breed and temperament, the toughness of their paw pads, and your dog’s experiences.
This is my recommended system if you want to skip the dog boots:
- Make sure your dog gets regular walks on a hard surface to toughen their paws. I hear that Tuf-Foot is also good for strengthening a dog’s paw pads.
- Trim the fur between your dog’s foot pads if it’s long or there is a lot of it.
- Make sure your dog has enough fur, or a dog jacket, that will keep their body extra warm when it’s cold out.
- Apply all-natural Musher’s Secret paw balm before you head out. This dense, breathable, barrier wax works like “invisible boots” to protect your dog’s paws from salt and chemicals, ice build-up, snowballing, and abrasions from rough ice or snow.
- Check your dog often when out on adventures. Feel their body (through fur or under their jacket) to make sure they are warm. Feel their feet to make sure they are not freezing and there is no ice or snow build-up.
Using this method, I’ve haven’t a problem in the 10 years I’ve been hiking in the northwest winters with dogs.
When Dog Boots Are Necessary
Sometimes the above method is not enough and your dog does need boots. Here are some scenarios where I could see boots are necessary:
- You live in an area where salted or chemically de-iced sidewalks are a thing all winter. You are afraid of salt burns on their feet or your dog has already experienced salt burns.
- Temperatures below 25 degrees F are common when you go out in the snow and you’ve seen your dog lifting their feet when walking or standing around.
- Your dog’s foot pads are weak and often get cut or scraped.
- Your dog is extra fluffy and snowballs stick to their fur, including around their feet and between their foot pads.
So maybe you’ve determined your dog needs boots. How do you find the right pair?
First, the “right” boot is one that fit’s your dog’s foot perfectly.
It’s not too snug around the foot and allows their toes to splay out naturally when they walk. It also fit’s securely so they don’t rub or fall off.
For more help, read my guest article on the Sierra Trading Post blog about selecting a properly sized dog boot.
Beyond that, there are a few other things to consider:
No “traction device” is better than your dog’s naked paws.
While boots can help protect from the elements, it can also cause them to lose their footing and slip. It’s not super common that results in an injury but it certainly can and does.
I’ve heard of a dog with boots slipping down a cliff or slipping and pulling a tendon. It likely won’t be an issue but be aware.
(Photo courtesy of The Dog Saga)
Your dog can’t perspire naturally with boots on.
Your dog “perspires” through their feet. Even the best dog boots prohibits this natural ability to some degree.
The less breathable a dog boot is, the greater chance there is of then overheating. It’s not likely in the snow but it’s something to be aware of.
Your dog will have less traction with boots on.
A dog’s paws are perfectly designed for them to walk on – to give them the grip and traction they need.
No dog boot will provide your dog with more traction than their natural paw would.
A boot with a thicker, more obvious tread will give more traction than one with a smooths surface but you will sacrifice flexibility of the material. It may cause them to walk unnaturally.
It’s easier to find dog boots if your dog’s leg and paw are of a similar width.
If your Dachshund has thicker legs, so their is not such a size difference between the proportion of their foot and leg, you will have an easier time finding dog boots that fit.
By nature, Dachshund generally have fat paws and skinny little legs though.
The circumference of the cuff of the boot is proportional to the width…. for a “normal” dog.
The manufacturer expects that a dog with a certain width paw will have a certain leg circumference.
If your dog doesn’t fit that norm, you will have a harder time finding boots.
(photo credit @lifewithjasperzen – left – and Montecristo Travels – right)
The same goes for boot cuff length.
Most dog boot manufacturers take into account the leg length of a dog for each respective size.
In other words, the smallest size dog boot is made to fit dogs with shorter legs. Larger dog boots are sized to fit dogs with long legs.
Dachshunds have short legs compared to the size of their feet. Beware that a dog boot properly sized for their foot may extend over their “knee”, or up into their arm pit, and rub.
They can be expensive and you might keep losing them.
I hear it’s very common for a dog to lose or damage a boot. We’ve certainly found several on the trail that have fallen off.
Be prepared to replace one at some point.
Good Dog Boot Options For Adventurous Dogs
Just because my Dachshunds don’t wear dog boots, doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what’s available.
I want to be prepared in case there is ever a situation where we need them.
Here are the dog boots that have caught my eye and a little about why:
These are probably the most promising dog boots for Dachshunds that I’ve found. We’re currently trying them out.
I have a friend with a Dachshund mix that uses them regularly for her dog and loves them.
They are intended for urban use to protect from salt, snow and slush. I don’t know how well they would work for hiking but it’s the salt protection we would likely need them for anyway.
They are made of a Neoprene-like material, are lightweight and warm .
According to their website, “the thin-sole construction promotes balance and security on icy pathways and our exclusive stretch Velcro closure ensures these boots stay on and comfortable where others have come up short.”
These were the first boots I found that had potential to be a good fit for my Dachshund. However, the cuff length of the boot extended too far up on the leg for my liking.
They might be an option for your small dog though.
They have genuine leather soles that are soft flexible. They also have self-tightening straps to provide a secure fit.
These boots are like deflated rubber balloons for your dog’s feet.
I’ve heard they can sometimes tear when hiking from abrasion, sticks, or toenails that are too long. I also know people who use them on their dog’s regularly and don’t have issues though.
They might work for hiking but they are best used for protecting your dog’s feet from de-icers on the sidewalk.
They seem like they’re less likely to feel weird on your dog’s feet since they are made of thin, flexible rubber.
These boots have a rubber, lugged outsole that provides better traction. They also feature an integrated stretch gaiter that protects legs and locks out dirt and debris.
I really like these boots but they didn’t fit my Dachshunds. I have heard they fit some Dachshunds though – especially tweenies and standards – so wanted to mention them.
For a super awesome comparison chart of dog boots – including these and some others – check out our doggy friend Robin’s in-depth Dog Boot Comparison Summary.
Does your dog wear boots? Which brand/model do you prefer and why?