As the weather gets colder - and colder - humans wrap up warmer and warmer. And while not every dog needs a coat - some breeds are bred for cold weather and others have dense, thick fur 'jackets' to keep them warm naturally - every pup that will be walking outside in snow, ice or even just on cold pavement needs a good pair of dog boots.
Dog boots do more than keep your pup's feet warm, they help protect his delicate - more delicate than you might realize - from the painful damage that walking in winter weather can lead to.
It's important to shop carefully for dog boots. There are lots of options out there that look cute, and you can even buy 'brand name' dog booties. However, there are more important considerations when shopping for the best dog boots for winter than how cool your pup will look with them on.
It's those considerations we are going to take a closer look at here, along with our recommendations for the best dog boots for all kinds of pups in lots of different (cold) situations.
Best Dog Boots for 2021 - Our Picks
Do dogs really need paw protective boots?
Before we start talking dog boots specifically it's important to understand why dog boots are a must for any pup who will be walking outside in wintry weather.
Canine coats or sweaters may also be necessary along with booties.
Here are some wintry weather threats to healthy pup paws you should be aware of.
Researchers found that dogs can withstand freezing temperatures of up -31° Fahrenheit (yikes!) due to their unique circulatory system found in dog paws. This is the reason why dogs tolerate the cold better than humans.
Despite this, ice balls can still form between the toes and pads on a dog's foot as a result of walking on snow, even very loose stuff. As the name suggests this compacted snow forms ice balls and are not only very painful for your pup but can also lead to ice burns.
Even the toughest of winter-loving dog breeds shouldn’t be left outdoors for long periods of time in freezing weather, since all dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite.
If you're jogging, walking or hiking with your dog in the great outdoors during any season, you may also want to consider paw protective shoes to provide protection against rough and varied terrains.
Rock salt and de-icers are commonly used on roads and pavements to help melt snow and to make them safer to walk and drive on. Rock salt is not, however, something dogs should be overexposed to.
If a pup gets rock salt on their paws they will, as soon as they are able, try to lick it off, as it feels gritty and uncomfortable on their paws. If they do the health consequences can be nasty.
Rock salt used to grit walkways is not the same stuff you keep on your dining table. In addition to sodium chloride, it also contains marl, a clay like substance that makes it more efficient. Ingesting marl can lead to a high blood sodium level that results in vomiting and lethargy, or, in some cases more grave consequences like convulsions or even kidney damage.
Spilled antifreeze can quickly prove fatal to dogs if ingested. As drivers are not always careful when adding antifreeze - and because some vehicles may leak antifreeze onto sidewalks and roads - it is essential that dogs are not allowed near this sweet smelling, attractive to pups liquid, and that includes accidentally getting it on their feet.
If a pup is out walking for too long - and on a very chilly day that might not be long at all - their exposed paws can quickly succumb to frostbite.
These dangers are in addition to the risks unprotected paws are exposed to in general on winter walks. Delicate skin on a pup's pads can quickly become cracked, chapped, and painful, which is something no pet parent wants to expose their fur kid to.
There are other reasons winter footwear for dogs are a great purchase too. If they are taken off before your pup heads back into the house, they will prevent snow and ice from being tracked into your home, something that will keep it cleaner and keep all the nasty stuff his feet may have picked up away from other pets or small kids in your home who have not been out in the cold!
Even dogs in the demanding Trail Sled Dog Race across Alaska wear booties to prevent abrasions caused by ice and snow.
How to choose the perfect dog booties
If you have decided that this year you will be dressing your pup's feet for the winter, then once you begin shopping you will quickly discover that there are lots of dog boots to choose from. As they have become more popular and used by more pet parents the options available have grown to meet the demand.
How do you choose the best dog boots for your pup? Here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
One of the biggest keys to a great dog boot for winter is its ability to stand up to the inclement weather. This means that the boot should be waterproof, or at the least water resistant, and easy to clean.
This often means that you will need to buy new dog boots for the winter even if your pup has a pair they wear in the summer, as the kind of light, breathable booties that are great in the heat just cannot stand up to the harsher weather extremes the colder months bring.
Ice and snow is slippery stuff, so it's crucial that for the dog boots you choose to have a textured sole that provides traction and skid resistance. Your pup may think it's fun to skid around on the ice, but a heavy fall can cause injury, and for you, as the pup parent at the other end of a leash, a slipping, sliding pup is likely to send you crashing to the ground as well.
Lots of dogs just do not like wearing boots, not at first anyway, at will make attempts in most cases to get them off. However, for the boots to do the job they are intended to they need to stay on.
Heavy Velcro closings are an excellent choice for dog boot fastenings as it is easy for pup parents to fasten but harder for pups to undo. Velcro straps also help you achieve a tighter - but not too tight - individualized fit for your pup.
Just like you need to measure your feet to help ensure you buy shoes that fit your pup's feet need to be measured too. Many dog boots are not offered in the kind of more exact number sizing that human shoes are, but they are sized to a certain extent, and it's important that you buy the option that offers the tightest comfortable fit.
Which brings us to the next important stage in the dog boot buying process: measuring your dog's feet.
How to measure dog paws for boots and shoes
Measuring your pup's paws for new dog boots for winter can be a little tricky, especially if yours is a highly active pup, but fortunately it is not as hard as it might sound, although getting the right measurement may take a few tries and more than a little patience.
Before you measure you should make sure your pup's nails are clipped to a neat size, as long, sharp claws can affect sizing (and damage the boots once you have them.)
To measure your dog's paw, you will need the following:
It's important to measure your pup's paws when he is standing as that will mean his paws are at their splayed out largest, the way he will walk. Measurements taken while your dog is sitting or lying down will not be as exact.
To measure his paws have him stand on the large piece of paper and then mark the points the front and back of the paw reach on it to figure out the length, and then measure for width by marking either side of his paw at the widest point. Do not try to draw around the paw, as that will not produce an accurate measurement.
If your pup will tolerate it, and many will not, you can also make use of a fabric tape measure to measure the length and width of their paw.
Here's a quick and helpful video from Top Dog Tips on how to measure for dog boots.
As you shop, you will often find that individual dog boot manufacturers offer printable charts specific to their dog boots which can be used to match your pup's paw to find best possible fit too.
How to keep dog boots on
As previously mentioned, if they have never worn dog shoes before you should expect that your dog will have objections to be asked to do so and will try to get them off as quickly as possible. Even if he does not, he will be confused about how he is supposed to walk in them!
It's for these reasons that you should practice in the safety and warmth of your home before heading out into the cold.
Take Note: Keep toenails trimmed as short as possible in winter. Although you can’t always prevent injury to dog nails, short nails are less prone to injury.
After ensuring that the boots are fastened snugly and secured in the way the manufacturer recommends allow your leashed pup to walk around in the boots for a while. Discourage him from trying to bite them off and reward him both for leaving the boots on and walking in them in general.
It's likely to take a few tries before your dog can walk normally in boots, and you should take the time to go through this indoor practice run- or runs, it may take more than one session - so that when you do head outside with your 'dog in boots' you will not need to struggle with a reluctant pup and loose, lost shoes.
Best Dog Boots for Winter Reviews
Now that you know more about what you should look for, and how to measure your dog's paws for them, it's time to take a look at some of the best dog boots for winter in more detail. We have chosen these boots based both on our own field tests and the reviews of other pet parents who have tried them out on their fur kid.
Here is a quick look at our picks:
Now, let's move on to the reviews:
Best Overall Dog Boots for Winter: QUMY Dog Boots Waterproof Shoes for Dogs
These sharp looking winter dog boots resemble a rugged sneaker and do offer many of the same benefits. They are completely waterproof, offer excellent traction thanks to their rugged anti-slip rubber bottoms and fasten easily and securely with Velcro straps. They even feature reflective strips so your pup can be seen more easily in dark or foggy conditions.
We love these boots because they go on easily, stay on and are extremely durable. The fact that they look cool too is a nice plus!
Find out more at Amazon »
Best Dog Boots That Stay On: RUFFWEAR, Grip Trex Outdoor Dog Boots
If your pup is one of those dogs who is persistent about getting their boots off, then you will need a choice that is as hard to remove as possible. These dog boots - which were designed for hiking pups - feature a single easy to fasten Velcro strap in front that is easy to secure tightly but harder for dogs to undo. The textured outer sole also makes walking in slippery conditions easier for your pup and the flexible upper is comfortable for them to move in.
Find out more at Amazon »
Best All-Season Dog Boots: HiPaw Breathable Dog Boot
If you live in an area that does not see a particularly harsh winter, then you may be able to buy a dog boot that is suitable for all season wear and will keep your dog's paw protected in both the winter and the summer. If you are looking for such a boot the HiPaw Breathable Dog Boot may be a wonderful choice.
These boots feature a breathable mesh upper that is also water resistant, and a ridged sole deigned to provide extra grip on both icy pavements in the winter and slippery sand dunes in the summer. As they are designed as water shoes for summer paddling, in low snow conditions they provide plenty of protection and are easy to put on and take off.
Find out more at Amazon »
Best Boots for Small Dog Paws: PIHAPPY Warm Winter Little Pet Dog Boots
It can be hard to find boots that stay on small paws well, but the PIHAPPY Warm Winter Little Pet Dog Boots are designed especially for small dogs - they do not offer large sizes - and their little dog boots are as cute as they are comfortable and protective.
Styled to look a lot like that famous brand of Aussie winter boots for humans, these dog boots feature a secure but comfortable Velcro closure and are soft enough to cradle little paws perfectly while also offering a non-slip bottom to prevent spills in the snow and a waterproof PU upper. And did we mention that they are super cute?
Find out more at Amazon »
Best for Rugged Terrain: Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Dog Boots
If you will be hitting the trail in more rugged terrain your pup will need a tougher winter dog boot like the Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Dog Boots.
These tough PU and rubber boots feature heavy Velcro closures, an extra ridged rubber sole for better grip and a waterproof PU upper that resists stains and damage from loose rocks and twigs. It should be noted though that as great as these boots are keeping your pup out for too long in the extreme cold is rarely a good idea.
Find latest price at Amazon »
Budget Buy Dog Booties: Pawz Dog Boots
If your pup does not go out for long in the winter, or if the winters where you live are relatively mild, you may not want to spend a lot on winter dog boots. Pawz Dog Boots are rubber booties that are designed for occasional wear and are lightweight and disposable. Think swim socks for dogs. You can easily pop them in a bag, and they are great for use at the dog park in mild weather. Best of all they cost under $25 for 15 pairs!
Get them on Amazon »
How to make dog boots at home
The snow is falling, Fido needs to go out, but his new winter dog boots have not arrived yet. The good news is that in a pinch you can make dog boots at home that will let your pup head outside - for a little while at least - do what they need to and keep their paws warm.
It was homemaking guru - and lifelong dog parent - Martha Stewart who came up with this easy tutorial and, as we are with most of what she does, we were extremely impressed and inspired to try this out ourselves. Why don't you do the same?
What you'll need:
How it's done
After measuring your dog's paws and making a template, fold the waterproof fabric in half and then following the template you have created use pinking shears to cut out four 'shoes'.
Cut out four small circles from the patching fabric, again using pinking shears for that crinkly edge. These will serve as the bottoms of the booties and add extra grip.
Pin these patches in place on the waterproof material and them machine stitch them on.
To make elastic straps, measure the width of your dog's ankle. Trim the elastic so that the foot can be held snug with it. You want it to be secure enough to hold the booties on, but not so tight that your pup's circulation is cut off! Fold the elastic in half and pin each bootie just below the hem, so that it sits on the fabric's 'right side.'
Fold the booties in order to reveal the wrong side of the fabric and trim off the "toe" corner so that you can stitch in a rounded shape.
Stitch around the bootie's circumference, leaving the top open. Sew in a curved fashion as you get to the toe, similar to a sock. (Note: To add durability, you may wish to back stitch over the elastic.) Trim off any excess fabric and then turn the boot right side out and it is ready to wear!
No matter what breed dog you have, certain dogs are more tolerant of the cold weather than others. So, remember to be extra cautious when venturing outside in the winter and be aware of your dog’s tolerance to winter weather.