I’ve received a lot of questions about dog boots for winter over the years like:
- Do dogs need to wear boots in the snow?
- Is snow bad for dogs paws?
- Do your Dachshunds wear boots in the snow?
- At what temperature do dogs need boots?
- What boots do you recommend?
Well, today I’m going to answer all of these questions by sharing what I’ve learned from hiking with my dogs in winter for over 15 years.
But first, let me tell you a little about snow and winter weather where we live.
Winter Snow Conditions In the Pacific Northwest
Our snow is different than in some other parts of the country.
I remember being shocked at how light and fluffy the snow was when I visited Colorado.
Here, our snow is called “Cascade Concrete”. The snow in Washington is wet and heavy compared to a lot of other places in the country.
That means the snow often compacts down to a hard surface after it’s been walked or driven on so its unlikely to get stuck in my dog’s paws.
The compacted snow seems to bother my dog’s feet less than hiking or walking through fluffy snow.
I think, somehow, the compacted snow doesn’t feel as cold. Perhaps because it contacts less of the foot surface.
The number of winter days in the mountain that are below 20 degrees Fahrenheit are are few.
Temperatures below 10 degrees are 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 my dog’s paws and wipe them off when we get home and we’ve never had a problem.
I can tell you about how my Dachshunds do without wearing boots in winter where we live but, although it’s likely transferable to your situation, I can’t make any promises.
Your experience might be different than ours.
Do Dogs Need Snow Boots to Protect Their Feet?
You’re probably wondering if snow is bad for a dog’s paws. Or asking yourself if dogs need boots.
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 longer than a human foot would.
With some simple precautions, dog boots may not be necessary.
At What Temperature Do Dogs Need Boots?
Head Vet at tails.com, Sean McCormack, says:
“A dog’s paw pads are tough enough to withstand the snow, ice and frozen ground. They have adapted to the cold and are designed to survive the outside.
Body temperature plays a big part in this, as the pads draw warm blood to the skin to keep them warm. [a dog’s body temperature is approximately 5 degrees higher than a human’s]
The tissue on a dog’s paw pad is built to protect them from temperatures as low as -35 degrees.”
However, in my experience, small dogs get cold feet easier than big dogs.
My assumption is because of their small body mass, they are unable to generate as much body heat.
Personally, my 10-pound dogs have stood on snow and ice when temperatures were as cold as 8 degrees Fahrenheit but it was only for a short potty break.
We’ve been out for longer when it was about 10 degrees and some of those times my dogs have lifted their feet, signaling their feet are uncomfortable.
In my expeirence, my dog’s feet get irritated more easily when walking on surfaces that have de-icer granules on them.
I’m unclear to me whether it’s the de-icer itself irritating their feet, or if the de-icer somehow makes the snow and ice feel colder (since ice lowers the freezing point of water), but it seems they can’t tolerate temperatures as low in those conditions.
So, the bottom line is that a dog’s feet may be fine without boots in temperatures as low as 10-15 degrees F, and potentially colder.
However, you should watch for signs it’s too cold for your dog at temperaturesnearing 0 degrees.
5 Things to Know About Dog Boots
1) No “traction device” is better than your dog’s naked paws
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 and it may cause them to walk unnaturally.
While boots can help protect your dog’s feet from the elements, it can also cause them to lose their footing and slip.
It’s not super common that a slip or trip injury results from a dog wearing boots but it certainly can and does.
I’ve heard of a dog with boots slipping off a cliff or slipping and cutting a tendon on the boot edge.
2) Your dog can’t perspire naturally with boots on
Your dog “perspires” through their feet, even when it’s cold out.
Even the best dog boots prohibit this natural ability to some degree.
The less breathable a dog boot is, the greater chance there is of them overheating.
It’s not likely in the snow but it’s something to be aware of.
3) It’s easier to find dog boots if your dog’s leg and paw are of a similar width
If your dog has thicker legs, so there 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, Dachshunds, and some other dog breeds, have fat paws and skinny little legs.
The circumference of the cuff of the dog 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 that fit.
4) 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 or chafe.
5) Dog boots 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 at least one, at least once, at some point.
How to Protect a Dog’s Paws Without Boots
You may have decided that your dog doesn’t need to wear boots in the snow but you still want to protect their feet.
You’re probably looking for alternatives to dog boots.
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.
- Trim the fur between your dog’s foot pads if it’s long or there is a lot of it so it’s harder for ice, snow and de-icing products to cling and dry on their skin, causing irritation.
- Make sure your dog has enough fur, or a dog jacket, that will keep their body extra warm when it’s cold out so heat is pushed out through their feet.
- Apply all-natural Musher’s Secret dog paw wax 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 15 years I’ve been hiking in the northwest winters with dogs that don’t wear boots.
When Dog Boots Might Be Necessary
Sometimes the above method is not enough and your dog does need boots.
Here are some scenarios where I could see it necessary for your dog to wear boots:
- 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 10 degrees F are common when you go out in the snow or ice 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 (note: when walking in winter, dogs are more susceptible to cuts and cracks on their feet)
- Your dog is extra fluffy and snowballs stick to their fur, including around their feet and between their foot pads.
How to Choose the Right Size Boots For Your Dog
If you’ve determined your dog needs boots, how do you find the right pair?
The “right” boot is one that fit’s your dog’s foot perfectly:
- Not too snug around the foot and allows their toes to splay out naturally when they walk.
- Fit’s securely so they don’t rub or fall off.
Choosing the right size boot for your dog is as simple as measuring your dog’s feet (be sure to measure both front and back!) and comparing those measurements to the manufacturer size chart.
For more help, including instruction on how to properly measure your dog’s feet, read my guest article on the Sierra Trading Post blog about selecting a properly sized dog boot.
The correct size doesn’t ensure a correct fit though.
You will need to try the boots on your dog once you receive them to make sure they fit securely but aren’t too tight.
If they don’t seem to fit well, you may need to return them and try another brand or boot model.
Dog Boots For Winter
I have small dogs and I’ll tell ya, finding snow boots that come small enough, stay on, and don’t have a cuff that is too tall, is challenging.
My friends that own big dogs have said it can be challenging for them too.
While my Dachshund’s don’t currently wear boots, I’ve kept a close eye on what boots are available and likely to fit small dogs over the years.
Although I can only speak specifically about small dog boots for winter, most of these listed also come in sizes for larger dogs. Some up to 100 lbs!
Boots for Little Dogs
I want to be prepared in case there is ever a situation where I need boots for my miniature Dachshunds.
Note: This article contains affiliate links, which means I get a few pennies, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase to help support this blog (and we really, really appreciate it!)
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 30 lb Dachshund mix that uses them regularly 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 dog though if they have longer legs.
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.