4 pairs of boots to keep your dog’s paws safe

Dog paws are tough, but rough trail conditions can still hurt

By Alandra Johnson and Joe Kline (@joeklinefoto) / The Bulletin

Central Oregon can be tough on paws.

Those soft pads that propel dogs along dirt trails, over pavement and up hills aren’t as indestructible as our best friends make them seem.

Rocks and lava can tear up and slice into paws. Hot cement can burn them, and snow and ice can freeze them.

While a simple walk around the block probably doesn’t warrant special paw protection, a long trek on rocky or snowy terrain probably does. But not all dog boots are made the same. Some are designed with snow in mind, others for regular hiking or lighter use.

We got the low-down on some canine boots from local manufacturer Ruff Wear’s director of marketing, Susan Strible, as well as Bend Pet Express owner Stephanie Baldwin.

General tips

• Watch for tripoding. How to tell if your dog needs boots? During hot or cold weather, if your dog is raising one foot up and “doing the tripod dance” to protect one foot, that means they could use some protection, said Baldwin.

• Take boots with you. One good idea is for dog owners to carry a pair of dog boots along on a hike. Put them on the dog when needed to help them get over particularly rocky terrain, cinder fields, lava beds, obsidian flows or icy patches — all of which are common in Central Oregon.

• Boots are not just for hiking. Strible says they hear from many people in New York City and other urban areas who use dog boots to protect their dogs’ paws from salt and chemicals used to de-ice sidewalks in the winter and scalding hot pavement in the summer.

• Try on first. Bend Pet Express allows people to visit the store and try the boots on their dogs before committing to a size.

• Rewards are key. Many dogs are unsure of boots. “We get a lot of laughs in here in the store when dogs try on booties for the first time,” said Baldwin. Use positive reinforcement and treats to encourage their use. With time, pooches should adjust.

All about fit

“Fit is critical,” said Strible. “We have found people are not successful until they get the fit right.” Too often, she says people assume if they have a large dog, they will need a large boot, but that is not always the case. If the fit is not right, the boot will not stay put. Ruff Wear offers a helpful fit guide on its website, www.ruffwear.com. •

Fit tips: Go by the width. Measure both the front and the back feet, as they sometimes differ. Trim nails before trying on boots. Get the snuggest boots possible, look for a firm fit. Make sure there isn’t a lot of pressure on the toes from the fabric in between the toe and boot this just makes more sense to me to cut this, because i can’t figure out what fabric there would be between the toe and the boot..

Ruffwear Grip Trex dog boots.

Joe Kline / The Bulletin

Grip Trex

Ruff Wear, $69.95

Details: These all-season boots are the company’s most popular. They are designed for rocky trails and can work in light snow (but not deep snow) as well as on hot surfaces.

Ruffwear Polar Trex dog boots.

Joe Kline / The Bulletin

Polar Trex

Ruff Wear, $89.95

Details: This is the brand’s winter boot, designed for gripping in snow and ice. The fastener comes up higher on the dog’s leg so that snow will stay out of the boot.

Ruffwear Summit Trex dog boots.

Joe Kline / The Bulletin

Summit Trex

Ruff Wear, $54.95

Details: This is a light, low-profile minimalist boot. It is water resistant and good for use on urban sidewalks or for light hikes. It is not intended for heavy-duty hiking. Strible said some pet owners use this boot for older dogs that may need traction on wood flooring.

Ultra Paws dog boots.

Joe Kline / The Bulletin

Durable Dog Boots

Ultra Paws, $33

Details: As pictured on the dog above, these are more everyday boots, intended for lighter use. They provide good traction on flooring and light hiking trails and offer some snow protection. Baldwin said they also stay on very well.