Few of us wander around without shoes on, but dogs, dogs are different creatures entirely and have evolved physiological features to help cope with the elements.
This makes it a logical question to ask whether dog shoes are a wise addition to your doggy daycare bag, or whether they simply just another gimmicky product?
Dog shoes provide protection against sharp objects and extreme temperatures whilst helping reduce the instances of callouses, however they restrict the dog’s ability to use their claws to grip and balance and so are only really suitable for use in flat urban environments.
Below we’ll share our own experiences of using dog shoes and discuss why they shouldn’t be worn outdoors all of the time.
When does a dog need to wear dog shoes?
In general, a dog’s pads might be slightly more calloused to the touch than a human’s foot – because they run around “barefoot” all the time. However, you’ll probably be surprised by how soft the pads are when pressed.
That means dog paws are vulnerable to being injured by:
- Extreme heat
- Extreme cold
- Salts used to de-ice roads
- Blisters and callouses
- Slippery surfaces such as wet rocks
Older dogs and puppies may be more prone to these hazards, and very active dogs including those who run every day are also more likely to encounter them too. However, any dog can benefit from wearing dog shoes to protect their toe beans.
How do dog shoes help an active canine?
So, how do dog shoes specifically help with each of these problems?
Sharp material and thorns
Firstly, shoes can obviously help to protect your dog’s feet from getting cut by anything sharp that they may encounter. If you regularly exercise your dog in a city center – either in the parks or on the sidewalks – they are quite likely to encounter broken glass or metal at some stage, even if the places are well maintained.
Shoes will protect your dog’s feet from these hazards. You might think that if you’re running or hiking in the country, they shouldn’t need shoes, but actually, shoes can still help. If you’ve ever had to get a thorn out of your dog’s paw, you’ll know why! Sharp rocks can also cut or bruise.
Dogs are adapted for these environments (at least more so than the inner city) so no, they don’t absolutely need shoes – but shoes can make life more comfortable for them, especially if they are active and regularly going on rocky or thorny walks with you.
They don’t necessarily need to wear the shoes all the time, either. Dogs perspire through their feet, so you may want to choose breathable ones, or take them off for some of the walk to keep your dog cool.
Alternatively, you can just put them on if your dog is showing signs of soreness in their pads, perhaps caused by irritation or injury. Using shoes some of the time can be a great way to let active dogs have as much exercise and play as they want, but using them constantly may not be a great idea.
We mentioned temperature being a problem. If you live in a city, try touching your hand to the sidewalk on a summer day. You might be amazed by how hot it is – and that’s not comfortable for your dog to walk on.
Using shoes can protect your dog’s paws from this heat, and will make the walks more comfortable for them, especially if you walk in the middle of the day.
In the early morning or late evening, the sidewalks should be cooler and your dog may not need the protection. Similarly, parks or green spaces shouldn’t be so impacted by the heat of the day.
Extreme cold is also a worry. Many dogs struggle with ice and snow, and may start to limp as it hurts their pads. Furthermore, the salt put down to melt ice irritates the skin of some dogs. You can wash it off when you get home, or you can put shoes on and rinse the shoes later.
Shoes can help to stop snow from getting trapped in your dog’s pads. If it compacts there, it can get hard and uncomfortable for them, or could even cut them, so if you’re going to be playing in the snow for a while, shoes will keep your dog comfortable.
Dog shoes prevent blisters
Very active dogs may start to experience wear and pain in the soft skin of their pads if they spend long hours playing and running.
If your dog is suffering from blisters, shoes are a good option. They will give the blister an opportunity to heal and protect it while it’s tender. Dogs that spend a lot of time walking on hard surfaces – especially canines that aren’t used to it – may develop blisters on their pads, just as we would.
If you hike a lot, your dog might also benefit from some shoes to protect their pads on long days. You can just use them for part of the walk if you like, reducing the wear on the soft skin overall.
Dog shoes correct balance problems
Finally, you may find that shoes help out dogs that are a little clumsy and seem to slip a lot. Shoes can provide more grip on tricky surfaces (which is another reason they are good on ice) and will make it easier for your dog to play in wet, smooth areas without risk of injury.
It’s thought that shoes may also offer support to the hips and legs, which could help out if your dog is getting a little older, but still very active – especially if their breed is prone to hip problems.
If your dog is very active, there are many reasons that it may benefit from shoes, at least some of the time.
You probably won’t want to use your dog’s shoes every day, but when conditions are extreme, or if your dog has over-played or injured one of its pads, shoes can allow your pooch to keep enjoying the outdoors.
Choose soft-soled, breathable shoes so that your dog is comfortable, and remember to take them off and let your dog’s pads perspire for at least some of the walk if the weather is hot.