Constantly our social media feeds are filled with picturesque photos of friends, families, and influencers taking on the trails with their dogs. One aspect viewers will quickly notice are the little booties that dogs have been wearing more and more these days. Dog booties can protect paw pads from blistering on long hikes that might have obstacles, such as thorns, rocks, and sticks.
After participating in multi-day adventures and hiking almost every day while in our truck camper… I realized that dogs are usually fine without boots. There are times that I would recommend putting on hiking shoes for your dogs, including snow, long hikes, or even trails with sharp rocks. The added layer will provide protection, if your dog will let you put them on.
So, should dogs wear boots while hiking? The answer for the vast majority of outings with your dog is, no. Only under certain extreme instances will they require foot protection – such as prolonged exposure to extreme cold/snow, heat and hot surfaces, and especially sharp and rocky terrain.
When our own dog wears booties:
We rescued our 50 pound coonhound mix, Gibbs, six years ago. Since his adoption, we have been taking our pup on every adventure that he is allowed to join. He enjoys long trail runs, backpacking multiple days, and we love bringing him.
When we first started bringing him along for backpacking trips, we tried the Ruffwear Grip Trex dog boots. Some dogs will wear boots while other owners will report that their companions just rip the shoes off immediately. Unfortunately, Gibbs would take the shoes off every time so we ended up giving the shoes away.
If it were up to us, there have been various trips that dog booties would have been useful. In the past, his paws have not blistered but they do become swollen on trips that involve snow or more than 20 miles of hiking in a few short days. The days following a strenuous, long hike, he spends his time laying around until he is fully recovered. Watching this is very hard as an owner.
I highly suggest if you adopt a dog and know you will take them hiking, to get the pup normalized to wearing shoes. This will get the dog comfortable with them, and make it easier for owners to get their dogs to wear the shoes in the future.
Dog Shoes vs. Booties
Dog shoes are any shoes made for dogs that can prevent their paws from becoming raw due to dragging their feet when they walk. They also provide stability which assists with mobility for dogs. Depending on the dog, simple dog shoes can protect their feet and make for a happier, healthier life.
A lot of owners will use dog booties, which are rubber and fabric shoes that protect dogs’ paws from weather and rough terrain. Dog booties are typically what owners will put on their dogs when they are hiking. The rubber soles usually have a tread specific for hiking, and there are varying types of shoes specific to weather and terrain.
Is Hiking Good for Dogs?
In most situations, hiking is great for dogs! Hiking is both mentally and physically healthy for dogs, plus they almost always enjoy it. There are some dogs out there that might medically or physically have a reason why they should avoid hiking. From personal experience, I have seen the smallest of dogs behind their owners wagging their tail up a mountain.
Hiking can be mood boosting and promote a healthy body weight for dogs. As exercise is recommended for humans, it is also important for dogs as well. Most professionals recommend 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity a day. A lot of dogs are overweight. By providing exercise, such as hiking, and a controlled diet owners can improve their health.
Some dogs just do not enjoy hiking. For reactive and timid dogs, it is sometimes not beneficial to bring them on the trails. Dogs need to be trained to have success on the trail, which is a slow process. Taking a dog out on the trail can lead to a bad experience, which might make them more nervous or reactive in the future. Make sure they are ready. Your dog needs to be properly trained beforehand.
Hiking can also be dangerous for dogs at extreme temperatures. Heatstroke can be deadly for dogs, and cold weather can also be a hazard if they are not acclimated.
No matter the distance, you should always bring a collapsible bowl and extra water for your dog in warmer weather. Also, hiking near fresh water is helpful because not only does it provide a water source but it can quickly cool your dog down in the heat.
During cold weather, the temperatures can negatively impact a dog if they are not acclimated to the cold winter weather. Not only are boots important but having a coat for a dog can be vital as well.
When they are moving, they usually do not need the coat. When taking a break or if you are camping for the night a coat can add that added comfort and safety. For those of you who are creative or like to make your own gear, you can easily make your dog a jacket that converts into a blanket.
Watch for overexertion
Whatever the activity is, you should always slowly introduce exercise to your dog. Puppies should only have 15 to 30 minutes a day and should avoid long hikes. As your dog gets older, you can slowly add more distance and make adjustments based on age, terrain, and health of your dog.
For Gibbs, not only did we start hiking with him but I ran with him as well. I would bring him along for shorter runs and add a mile every month. He now runs around 10 to 15 miles, as anymore usually results in him being too exhausted the rest of the week. The most important thing is to listen to your dog and observe how they are feeling. Make accommodations and never push them too far.
Is It Bad to Put Shoes on Your Dog?
Putting shoes on your dog is not bad, but most dogs do not need to wear shoes. Dogs paws are surprisingly designed to protect them in below freezing temperatures. There have been studies that also show that dog’s pads that are exposed can help regulate their body temperature. Although, putting shoes on your dog has benefits, including protection, stability, and mobility.
The biggest issue with booties is that dogs do not like wearing them and will continually rip them off. The shoes can be uncomfortable and make walking harder. Wearing dog booties varies by the dog, and there are few instances where dog booties might be necessary.
In most instances, I do not recommend dog booties. Most people are not going on multi-day adventures, over 20-mile hikes, or trekking through the snow with their dog. As an owner it is rare for us to go on a hike in extreme heat or cold, because we do not enjoy the extreme weather either. My dog has never had an issue with day hikes around 15 miles. It simply varies on whether they like wearing them.
Most owners report that dogs just do not like wearing shoes. I would rather have my dog out hiking or running than be distracted with the shoes that make him uncomfortable. There are some dogs that wear booties and do a great job with them. Most dogs are uncomfortable in booties, and most dogs will be fine without them.
Boot Alternative – Paw Wax
If your dog is not a fan of the booties, you can still protect their paws in other ways. The most common, secondary option is using a dog wax. The wax is put on the bottom of their paws and ads another layer of protection against hot and cold surfaces.
Dog wax is an easier method to apply, and can also moisturize and soothe cracked paws. There are many brands of dog wax out there with features, such as being hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, or even made with organic materials. The most well-known brand today is Musher’s Secret Paw Protection.
How Far Can Dogs Hike in a Day?
Dogs can usually hike up to 25 to 30 miles a day if they are seasoned hikers. When they hike off leash, dogs tend to log even more miles than this. For average dogs they usually can hike around 5 to 10 miles. Even though they can do 5 to 10 miles, they likely cannot keep up the same pace for multiple days in a row.
Though dogs are capable of 25 to 30 miles a day, these big numbers have to be conditioned and slowly worked up too. If dogs are not gradually introduced to longer distances, they can be exhausted or injured. Injuries usually occur when they are hiking long distances and multiple days in a row.
When starting out, take your dog out walking 2 to 3 miles. If your dog is arthritic, overweight, or a flat nosed breed you should cautiously start with one mile instead. Owners can add small increments of a quarter to a half a mile each time depending on how the dog is doing. Observe the dog and reduce or add more miles depending on how they seem to be feeling.
When using dog booties, you should never leave them on 24/7. Dogs paws can sweat and leave the paws moist which can lead to blistering. Also, you should always inspect your dog’s paws when the shoes are off to check in on how they are doing.
Hot, Desert, Extreme Heat: Pawz Natural Rubber Dog Boots
Hot weather and arid climates can lead to warm conditions that are not ideal for dogs. Not only can they burn their paws on hot surfaces, but sand can get caught between the pads which can be irritating.
Pawz Natural Rubber Dog Boots are a perfect set of dog booties that add a thin extra layer when on hot surfaces. These affordable dog boots are just waterproof rubber boots that are easy to slip on and off. Due to the lightweight material, they are more comfortable than typical dog booties.
Snow, Ice, Extreme Cold: Ruffwear Polar Trex Winter Dog Boots
When backpacking, shoes can be extremely helpful because once the dog stops moving they are susceptible to the snow melting and then freezing in between paws. When this happens, it can be very painful for the dog. Ice forming in between the paws is more likely to happen when the temperature is closer to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
In temperatures less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit this is not as big of an issue unless they stop and stand in one place. If your dog does not wear shoes, you will constantly need to take the snow out before it melts and turns to ice.
Since removing snow and ice from your dog’s paw can take up a lot of time, I recommend the Polar Trex Winter Dog Boots by Ruffwear. The dog boots are designed for warmth, traction and protection during the cold weather conditions. Also, the Vibram® outsole provides traction on icy surfaces.
Sharp Rocks, Rocky Terrain: Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots
Hiking on rocky terrain can be hard on dogs’ pads. The sharp rocks can result in swelling and blisters, which can make it painful for the companion to carry on. When you are on rocky terrain for an extended period of time, I recommend considering dog booties for your pup.
Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots are a great choice for sharp rocks and rocky terrain. They are an all-purpose boot, water-resistant, and have a flexible coating for the toe and sole. These popular boots are a great choice for most dogs.
My top pick for hiking…
Not only is Ruffwear a trusted brand for dog gear, but they make the perfect set of all-terrain dog boots. They have a Vibram outsole for traction, breathable mesh that still keeps dirt out, and securely fit the dog.
These shoes are well made, and durable for dogs that are going to take long multi-day adventures or hikes. If it were not for my dog’s persistent refusal of dog booties, we would still have these in our gear collection.
Tips for Getting Your Dog to Wear Booties
If you believe that your dog should wear booties, there are some steps that you can take to get them comfortable with the shoes.
- The first thing to do is introduce them at a young age. Once they have them on and have sniffed them out for a bit, have the dog stand up.
- After you get them to stand and walk around, start consistently putting them in the shoes for a short periods of time around the house. Slowly owners can add more time, and eventually get the dog to wear them out on the trails.
- As the above method might not work for everyone, you can instead try massaging their paws before putting the shoes on. This allows the dog to get use to the feeling of something touching their paws.
- After massaging the paws, owners then can put just the front boots on. Once the boots are on, give the dog a treat and lots of praise. Eventually as they get use to the front two, you can add the back on as well.
At the end of the day, they might not be comfortable for your dog. Your dog most likely does not need dog boots, but always pay attention to make sure they are healthy and safe!
Maddie is an avid backpacker, climber, and trail runner. When she is not out on the trails training for ultramarathons, she is exploring with her husband and son in their 1996 F350 and camper. If you cannot find her outdoors she is probably at a brewery drinking a sour.