Next month will be winter. It’s practically here! We know that even though Manzo, Piper, Louise and I all love winter above most other seasons, it for sure comes with its challenges. The ice cold weather makes it hard to stay out for any length of time. With shivering dogs and frosty toes, many people decide to just stay inside for the colder months. Many of us know though, that an under-exercised dog can be pretty difficult to live with. Lucky for us there are plenty of tools and gear out there to help protect our chilly dogs and keep their little paws safe from the ice and cold we always see in the New Hampshire winters.
Many dogs have difficulty accepting and wearing winter clothing and especially booties for any length of time. We have all seen the comedic videos (if we haven’t seen it in real life) of dogs stepping awkwardly around the room with booties on as if they weigh two hundred pounds and are slipping on ice. They make a fun watch but of course, when it is your dog you quickly realize that this isn’t anything that can be sustained! Many people try boots or jackets once, see that their dog won’t move in them and decide that these things just aren’t for them.
What if we told you that booties and jackets can be for your dog? These things will help the both of you stay active, exercised and enriched during the colder months. There are fun and easy steps to achieve this goal. Before we get to that though, let’s talk about gear choices.
As I mentioned above, we love the winter over here, therefore we have lots of winter gear for our pups. From the Ruffwear Climate Changer as base layer, to the RC pets outer shell for wet snow, we’ve got what they need to keep their bodies warm. Plus they look so cute in their little fleeces and shells that I think sometimes Louise hopes for really cold weather just so she can see them rocking their winter gear.
For Booties there are lots of options. The Ruffwear Grip Trex are great for longer hikes on more rugged terrain while Pawz Rubber Boots can be great if you are just trying to help your fluffy dog’s feet from all the snow balls. Sizing is very important though! Be sure you are getting an appropriate size for your dog as too large can cause discomfort, chafing and slipping, while too small can cut off circulation and be impossible to get on! Now once we have the right tools, how can we help our dogs feel comfortable in them?
Start slow. Familiarize your dog with the boots before asking them to wear them for any length of time. Show them the boots, give them a treat. Let them sniff the boots all they want. Teach them that when the boots come out, good things happen. Always keep in mind that every dog will take a different amount of time to get comfortable in these new boots but taking the time to teach them is totally worth it!
Handle their paws away from the boots. In order for our dogs to accept boots being put on, they have to be okay with us handling their paws. Help them with this step by reaching out and touching their paw, with your hand on their paw, give them treats! As they get used to this, hold their paw, while giving treats and finally lift and inspect their paw as they get rewarded.
Introduce the boots slowly. Put one boot on at a time. Once they have the boot on, throw a cookie party! Scatter some food on the ground so they can go eat and be distracted while the boot is first on. Do this with each boot, one at a time. When all the boots are on, throw the biggest cookie party yet! Feed them their meal with their boots on, play their favorite game, anything that keeps their mind occupied and that they find reinforcing. As soon as the fun stops, the boots come off. Keep that routine for a good stretch of time before going on any walks.
When you do start walking with your dog’s boots on, stay engaged and excited to start. They may have the goofy booty walk for a little while but that’s okay! As they get more and more used to their new fancy footwear, you will start to see that high step go away. Stay positive, stay interactive, have fun and you will both be having more fun in the winter soon!