Whether on the hunt or on the street, your dog can benefit from dog boots.
Sand spurs, rocks, ice, and other rough terrain can cause injuries while hunting. In town, hazards such as hot pavement, glass, metal, and other debris can hurt your dog's feet. Dog boots can also be worn to protect your dog's injured or sore paws.
Just like with your own hunting boots, there are a number of things to consider before pulling out your wallet. It's important to know what brand and material your boots need to be, as well as what you will need in addition to the boots for them to comfortably and safely fit your dog.
When I Use Dog Boots in the Field
I carry dog boots with me everywhere I go. You never know when having boots will make the difference between a successful hunt and a completely ruined day. It's always better to have them and not need them, especially if you're traveling hundreds or thousands of miles.
For folks that travel to their hunting location but don't have a large number of dogs, I recommend booting their dogs for the entire trip. Even if their paws are in good shape, using boots can extend their ability to hunt longer and over more days. This can make a big difference in the success of your hunting trip.
I confess I'm not a fan of booting dogs. It's a pain in the butt and takes away time that I would rather spend hunting. If you try and boot your dogs ahead of time and then leave them in the dog box, you are likely to end up with some chewed-off boots. It's best to just wait and boot them right before you run them.
I mainly use dog boots for sand spurs. Their growth can be unpredictable, affected by drought and soil disturbance, so you might not have them on a piece of ground one year but they show up the next. Perhaps the most evil of plants, the sand spur's only purpose in life is to crush a bird dog's spirit. It's a rare, rare dog that can hunt through the pain of sand spurs.
Another reason I carry boots is to prevent or to help a dog that blows out a pad. My experience has been that some dogs are worse about pad injuries early in the season than others from a genetic standpoint. Thin pads and lots of drive are a bad combination that can lead to a hunting dog ending up on the injured reserve list.
Choosing Field Boots
Choosing the best field boot for your dog is going to depend on a few factors -- ease of putting them on, long-term durability, and what you are willing to spend.Booting Your Dogs
The easiest boots to put on are the ones with Velcro attachments:
Rugged Dog Boots by Ultra Paws
Grip Trex Dog Boots by Ruff Wear
Kurgo Blaze Cross Dog Boots
Sylmar Cordura Nylon Dog Boots
These boots don't require tape. However, this does not mean that you shouldn't tape them on your dog, especially the more expensive boots.
By contrast, Lewis Dog Boots require tape every time you boot your dog. I also recommend that you remove Lewis Boots at the end of every hunt. Watch my video on putting Lewis Boots on your dog.
I have gotten the longest life out of Lewis Dog Boots. The Ruffwear Grip Trex have also lasted me years of heavy use. I'd expect similar life out of the Kurgo Blaze Cross Boots but they have not been around as long as the others, so I can't say for certain.
I've used the Ultra Paws boots with success, but you will wear holes in them over time. You can patch them with spray-on rubber repair products and increase their life span.
The Sylmar Cordura Nylon Boots will have the shortest life span of what we sell, but are priced accordingly. They can also be repaired and patched for longer life.
We have a wide range of prices on our dog boots. This is based on the materials they are made from and their durability.
You need to expect to lose some boots in the field. I don't care how well you attach them -- it's going to happen. I found that as I got more comfortable booting dogs, I'd get really fast at it. This was when I tended to lose more boots.
Take the time to put your dog's boots on correctly and securely to keep your losses at a minimum.
Pad Conditioner for Extra Protection
Pad toughness can be improved with off-season running and the use of pad conditioners like Tuf-Foot. It takes several weeks, and you need to start slow and build up over time. I also use it during the year as a preventative. It soaks in nicely and gets into small cuts deep between your dog's pads.
Tuf-Foot is messy, so you don't want to apply it inside. You'll also want to make sure it has dried before letting your dog back inside as it is amber-colored and will stain your floor.
If you have neglected to use pad conditioner or didn't get an early enough start, boots can help. I still run into issues with some dogs because I can't replicate the ground conditions at home that we see out west. We just don't have the sand and rocks.
City Dog Boots
While I tend to think of dog boots as foot protection for hunting dogs, there are plenty of reasons to use boots in both the off-season and in the city for dogs that don't hunt. There is no reason to worry about your dog getting injured when going out for a walk.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the biggest danger for dogs walking on paved streets is the temperature of the concrete and asphalt itself, especially during the summer months. In direct sunlight, asphalt can quickly reach 125 degrees, and it doesn't take long for it to get to 150 or higher.
While I disagree with the idea that "if it's too hot for your feet, it's too hot for your dog's feet" (since their paws are tougher than your hands or feet), there's little need to risk burning your dog's pads when you both should be enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Exercise with your pet should be a great time for both of you.
There are plenty of additional dangers beyond the temperature of the road. Glass, metal, and debris are everywhere if you look around. For example, they can show up unexpectedly in areas where a traffic accident has previously occurred. A good set of rubber-soled dog boots can protect your dog in these situations.
Picking a Road Boot
Picking a road boot is slightly different than picking a hunting dog boot. While everything we sell will work in both situations, on the road you will want to avoid a few things. For example, Cordura dog boots are not designed for constant use on hard road surfaces and will wear out over time, and the rubber Lewis boots that I prefer for hunting dogs are really too much of a hassle to use for daily walks.
For road use I prefer a boot with a rubber sole and a Velcro-style attachment so I can easily put them on my pup. We sell three brands that meet these criteria:
Rugged Dog Boots by Ultra Paws -- Ultra Paws boots are the least expensive rubber-soled boots we sell, and make a great choice for protection while walking your dogs. They're durable and easy to put on.
Grip Trex Dog Boots by Ruff Wear -- Grip Trex boots are designed more like a tennis shoe and are a great choice. I have used them on my dogs for years, and they do a great job. Easy to use and durable whether on the road or in the country. Ruff Wear boots are stylish and tough. A great dog boot.
Kurgo Blaze Cross Dog Boots -- Kurgo boots are very similar in design to the Ruff Wear boots. They are built like a shoe and are rugged and breathable. Double ankle closures help keep them on your dog's feet.