Just like human feet, dogs' paws can suffer from prolonged exposure to the elements, especially in extreme temperatures in the winter and summer months. The pads on dogs' paws can easily crack or dry when exposed to outdoor chemicals or abrasions from salt and stones. But by getting your dog used to wearing dog shoes or boots, you can prevent paw injuries.
Select the Right Shoes for Your Dog
Dog shoes and boots come in a variety of styles from countless pet stores and online venders. Take a measurement of your dog’s paw, according to the shoe manufacturer recommendations. Depending on the outdoor conditions, select a shoe with or without traction. If you take your dog on walks through rough paths or in areas that tend to have glass or other debris, a shoe with traction will provide additional safety and support.
Putting on the Shoes
Wait until your dog is in a calm and submissive state. Ask your dog to sit or lie down and gently put the shoes on each paw. Fasten each strap, but make sure that it isn’t too tight. You want the shoe to stay in place, but not restrict the paw’s movement.
Practice Walking Indoors
Encourage your dog to walk around inside in order to get used to the shoes. He may seem to walk strangely for a few minutes when the shoes are first on. This is completely normal and your dog should adjust to the shoes quickly.
After a few minutes of walking indoors with the shoes on, praise your dog and remove the shoes. Properly praising your dog will positively reinforce the behavior of wearing the shoes. For example, as soon as the dog has the shoes on his paws and walks a few steps around the room normally, praise him verbally with a positive, joyful tone of voice. You can also give your dog a small, pea-sized treat each time you put on the shoes and he walks in the shoes normally. This will continue to reinforce the positive nature of wearing the shoes. Do this practice several times throughout the first few days after buying the shoes.
Practice Walking Outdoors
Once your dog has adjusted to wearing the shoes indoors, practice walking outside with the shoes on. Go for several short walks over the period of a few days, gradually adding time and distance, always remembering to praise your dog after you put on the shoes and take off the shoes.
Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.