Whenever we mention dog boots, the question that inevitably comes up is, “How on earth do they stay on?”
It’s a common issue that dog owners face, and today, we’re diving into this topic to discuss the factors behind boots that just won’t stay put. In this article, we’ll uncover the reasons why some boots have a tendency to slip off and, most importantly, share techniques to keep those boots snugly in place.
Is it necessary for dogs to wear boots?
Protecting the dog’s paws with boots is sometimes necessary, especially in harsh weather conditions or on rough terrains. Well-fitting dog boots provide comfort and safety and prevent injuries. However, not all dogs and all outings require boots - and there are scenarios when they do more harm than good.
However, one common issue pet owners face is that boots keep slipping off the paws. In this article, we will dig into why dog boots keep falling off and how to keep them snugly in place.
How do you make dog boots stay on?
There are multiple aspects worth considering when trying to find the right boots and figuring out why the current one keeps falling off.
Firstly, choosing the right size is the most important factor in boot fitting, and this might be harder than expected. Different brands have slightly different ways to measure the paws, and you might get different measurements when checked multiple times.
Boot sizing is not forgiving: if your dog falls between sizes, you might need to look for another brand because slightly big is just as bad as slightly small. Keep in mind that many dogs need different shoe sizes on their front and back legs, so measure all paws and measure them multiple times before deciding on the size.
Proper boot adjustment is another crucial step. Most people leave the dog’s boots too loose, which causes them to slide off - especially in the case of dogs with little stick legs like Zulu or if the dog has fluffy legs. The securing straps need to be tighter than most people assume, and it might take some time to get the feeling of when it’s right. You will probably also need to re-adjust them a few minutes into your walk.
A big part of getting the right fit is to start with trimmed nails to prevent any discomfort or difficulty in wearing the boots. This is especially important if the dog has dew claws and if the shoes are covering them. Be sure to trim/dremel them ahead of time so they don’t have sharp edges that can cut into the legs when the boot presses on them. If needed, add a layer of vet wrap under/over the dew claws for protection but be careful not to make it too bulky.
Another big factor in boots falling off is the type of boots. To oversimplify, there are two main types: the ones with a thicker rubber sole and the sock-type boots that do not have a different top/bottom part.
Until 5-8 years ago, thicker, more rigid boots were the most common on the market, I assume because it follows the logic of human boots, so most people choose those. While the ticker sole provides better protection, for example, on hot streets, dogs lose traction while wearing them since their paws and nails cannot get any grip. The more rigid material also tends to cause more chafing over longer periods, and it can be harder to achieve a snug fit without making them too tight. Based on testing and reviewing a few different types and brands of boots at this point, these also tend to rotate as the dog turns, especially when used off-leash.
These are also the least forgiving in sizing since, unless they fit perfectly, they easily fall off or rotate. One thing you can try is adding a sock/boot liner to slightly big boots can make them fit better and prevent chafing.
Sock-type boots usually have the same material all around, so you don’t need to worry about them rotating. The softer and bit looser material lets dogs get a grip on slippery surfaces and allows the paw to move naturally while wearing them. These boots are commonly used by sleddogs and other working dogs who need a bit of extra protection, but they also need to be able to run safely.
Using softer materials also causes these boots to wear down over time; These are not designed for regular use over the years. Different materials and thicknesses are recommended for different activities and use (on dirt roads/snow/ice etc.), so choose the one that fits your needs.
Sizing these boots is a bit easier since they can accommodate dogs between sizes and will not cause chafing, even if they fit a bit looser. Some of these sock-type boots come with elastic velcro straps that, in my experience, also make tightening them easier compared to the most common “rigid” velcro straps.
Our experience with boots
We used boots with both Mia and Zu when hiking on frozen snow or on rough trails above the treeline. Boots are also crucial to protect their paws when they cut their foot or break a nail, so I need them to be comfortable while wearing them.
Mia had different front and rear paw sizes in every brand, while Zu has stick legs (especially on the back legs) that make keeping boots on harder. Still, we never lost a boot and rarely had issues with them falling off, even when they jumped around in the snow.
Finding the right boot size and the right level of tightness for the straps can be a trial and error, but most boots can be kept from falling off on most dogs when these are done right.
How to introduce boots to the dog?
Although it’s funny to watch the videos showing dogs running outside with boots on for the first time - it is recommended to break down the desensitization process and not let them wear them outside before they are comfortable with them.
Begin by having the dog wear the boots indoors for short periods while giving them treats and luring them around to take small steps. Leashing them can help to prevent them from jolting when realizing the boots are on and ensure they cannot run into something or fall. If you have a sensitive dog, you can start with only the front or rear paws at the same time - but add them in pairs to avoid them limping around and not using the leg with the boot on.
Once they walk around naturally with the boots indoors, you can slowly get outside on a leash and practice walking up and down stairs and different surfaces. In the beginning, prevent them from running around to prevent falling or hitting something when they cannot turn in time while wearing the boots.
If you are not using boots regularly, it is recommended to revisit these steps quickly before the next hike/ boot season to ensure they are comfortable wearing them. If they walk around in the boots naturally, it is also a lot less likely to fall off.
Dog boots provide vital protection for the paws, but keeping them from falling off can be challenging. By selecting the right size, adjusting the boots correctly, gradually acclimatizing your dog, and implementing additional preventive measures for comfort, you can ensure a secure and comfortable fit with most boots - and if not, try another style to see if that fits your needs better.