Monday, January 6, 2014

City Dog: How to Prepare your Dog for Icy, Salty Sidewalks

As we're just getting back from break, we thought we'd use this time to revisit some of our favorite posts. This is something we get asked about a lot, and we thought it was especially relevant today where here in "Chiberia" they are predicting a high of -9 degrees(!!) and an expected windchill of -52(!!) 
We've noticed a lot of Chicago dogs preparing for the cold, but one thing we don't have control over is walking over salt and ice. Without our own backyard, we still need to make our daily walk which often means walking over unshoveled sidewalks or encountering some toxic de-icers.
The salt can be painful to our pups and seeing the 3-legged prance too many times led us to the phenomena of dog boots. We've been getting a lot of questions about the boots we use and how we make our pups comfortable wearing boots. Here are some things that worked for us:

Handling Feet and Creating Positive Associations with Boots:
Since we don't like tracking 'Chicago Grime' into our home, we are always wiping and handling our dogs feet several times a day. I never realized the he positive side-effect is they are comfortable having their feet handled. This was our step in allowing us to put the boots on them.

 We also recognize that whenever we're introducing new gear to the pooches, we always make sure to do it slowly and create positive associations. We allow the pooches to sniff out the boots, and they get a lot of petting and treats. We will try on one boot for a short amount of time where they will also get a lot of petting and treats. Eventually we are able to work our way up to wearing all of the boots.

Practicing Inside:
For some reason, the pooches were rendered immobile and didn't realize they could walk once they had the boots on their feet. We spent a lot of time inside, practicing walking, before we took them outside. We do short distances, back and forth in the living room, until they become more comfortable. The fun part is that they prance around like ducks and you can make funny videos. Here are our dogs practicing/dancing inside.

Finding what Works:
It took us awhile to find the boots that worked best for us. The first time Miss M's feet ever touched snow, we both panicked and I ran out and bought the first pair of Muttluks I could find. While these boots cost around $50, I was living in constant paranoia because each walk at least one boot would fall off. Which would become expensive to replace. And also frustrating to deal with when it's cold and I need to take off my gloves and try to put the boot on again mid-walk (where it would still fall off!).
We have had success with Pawz Disposable Rubber Boots which are like balloons that fit around their feet. Mr. B wears the purple boots (size Large) and Miss M's 'talons' make her size Extra-Large (Green Elf Shoes!).
I know some people have had some issues with the boots tearing, but since our dogs aren't running, they're merely walking on the sidewalk, we can typically use a pair as many as 5 times.

We have also been trying Musher's Paw and we're hoping to share our experiences with it soon.
What has everyone else's experience been? Do you use boots, mushers paw...or is your dog just a natural snow pup?

We review Ruffwear coats here. And RC pet products coats here.
And cold-weather gear for large pups.
How we prepare ourselves for the cold
When we'd rather stay in

Check our Facebook page for more photos, comments, and story lines beyond the blog.


Dolores said...

I hear you on the fear (and cost) of losing booties. We've gone through at least two sets of muttluks, and a couple other less expensive sets of booties. Parts of sets were lost in snow drifts, and I found myself constantly looking at my dog's feet while on snowy walks. No fun. We were left with an odd collection of partial sets of booties.
I switched to the Paws rubber booties two winters ago and I haven't looked back. My furry old man HATES me putting them on him, but he has hated having his feet touched or any booties put on since we first got him, so it's really nothing short of a miracle that I can get any booties on him at all.
Finding what works for your dog is the key - I found that if I put his harness on first, he's more cooperative. I put the back booties on first (his back feet are smaller than his front so they go easier); then he does this funny wiggling around of his front right paw (it's more sensitive than the others, he had a toe amputated a couple years back due to a growth) and I just wait for the right moment to SWOOP the bootie on; and then he just gives in and lifts the last paw in defeat to let me put it on. If I'm on my game, and if he's motivated to go outside, the whole process takes less than a minute.
One other thing about the Paws rubber booties - they last a LONG TIME. I haven't used more than 1 set of these puppies (no pun intended!) over the two couple winters so far. If you use them just for snowy/icy/salty conditions, they can really last. So for less than $20, I still have two whole sets left in the package. SWEET.

Alanna said...

My Dad bought my dog at set of muttlucks last winter but she's only worn them a handful of times. She had torn CCL and wore an orthopaedic knee brace for six months. I was worried she'd be more likely to slip in the boots and re-injure herself. Her knee has healed but she really doesn't like wearing them, plus our walks usually include some off leash frolicking. She is not a natural snow dog but had become very adept at winding around salt and slush, lol. I like the idea of musher's paw but worry it'll end up all over my house!

Two French Bulldogs said...

Great tips. You guys sure are having some frigid weather

caitlin said...

We just started using Musher's Paw as well, because we just didn't have any luck with booties on Chick. Although we didn't work at it as well as you guys did. The Musher's Paw definitely seems to help, but Chick is so tiny and hates the cold so much that she just runs for a few seconds until she does her business, then immediately pulls back to the door.

OG said...

The PAWS are great! The salt on the sidewalk in my neighborhood is very caustic....beware of blue salt! And Petey cries so piteously when he gets it in his feet it breaks my heart. The Paws stay on even when he runs around like a maniac in the snow. He had some of last year's on and those tore a bit but maybe the rubber was tired or dry.
Happy New Year everyone!

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to put boots on Jake (or to even show him the boots so we can associate them with some sort of positive experience) and had the following conversation with him: "Jake, Miss M has had great success with wearing these, not only is she adorable but her feet are warmer and dry. Don't you want that for yourself?" His answer, NO.

Betsy said...

Musher's Paw works GREAT for our dogs. It's not perfect, but we can see a definite improvement. Word of advice: The first time we put it on our bulldog we did it on the 2nd floor of the house. He then skiied down the hardwood staircase on his slicked up paws. He was fine but I thought I was going to have a heart attack!

rebecae said...

Pawz were sold-out in my NYC neighborhood during last week's snow storm so we only use the Mushers. I make sure to get into the pads and between my pups claws, but if there's already a cut from the ice she winches. My husband and I each carried our hobbling 55lb pup home after a walk. She's been less inclined to go out in this weather, which suits us just fine.

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