Updated: Jan 9, 2018
If you have a dog that goes everywhere with you, like a service dog, if you live in a warm climate, or you do a lot of hiking, consider boots for your dog
“Oh my gosh, those dogs are wearing SHOES!”. If I had a dollar for how many times I overheard that as we walked through the Orange County Fair, I’d be rich. We live in Southern California, where the summer months (which seem to blast from March until November 😉 ) are often 90-100 degrees, and the asphalt gets hot enough to burn bare feet on humans, or paw pads on dogs. On a sunny day, even at 80 degrees, the asphalt can be upwards of 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature.
“Oh my gosh, those dogs are wearing SHOES!”. If I had a dollar for how many times I overheard that as we walked through the Orange County Fair, I’d be rich.
Two of our dogs are service dogs, diabetic alert dogs to be specific (DAD’s), and as such often go with us on our daily activities, whether that is a trip to the grocery store, or a big outing to a county fair. On our recent trip to the OC Fair, the weather was pleasant. The city where the fairgrounds located is closer to the ocean, so the temperature is 10-15 degrees cooler than in our area. On this day it was mid 80’s and pleasant, but the black top the fair sits on was HOT. Often we do a touch test, if someone is in flip flops or sandals, we have them touch the ground with their foot, or use the back side of their hand, and if it is too hot or uncomfortable to touch, the boots go on.
While we are out and about wearing the shoes, we cause quite the commotion. Not many people think about their dogs paws on the hot ground. We get stopped often and asked why they have shoes, where the shoes are from, how hard are they to put on, how do we get our dogs to keep them on, and “can I take a picture?”. We have had our service dogs for over 6 years, and they have been wearing shoes since they were puppies. It is part of their training, as they are expected to go with us everywhere, and not take summers off. There is of course a learning curve, and you need to pay close attention to make sure the dogs don’t lose a shoe along the way, as they will slip off. And if you plan on getting your dog some shoes, please have the video camera ready for their first steps in them. Trust me on that 🙂 (and search Youtube for “dogs in shoes”)
There is a threshold in temperature where we decide that regardless of the precautions we take, it just isn’t safe or reasonable to bring a service dog with us. Generally when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, and we need to be outside for extended periods (like an amusement park) we leave the dogs home. If our plans are to go to the mall or a movie, or some indoor activity like that, we will bring a dog and use the boots to get across the parking lot. A rule of thumb that I recently heard was to use the number 135. You take the temperature and the humidity and add them together. If the total is over 135, you should leave the dog home to avoid heat exhaustion.
As an example:
Total: 115 = safe within reason (assuming you aren’t running or hiking for an extended period)
Total: 145 = potential heat exhaustion/heat stroke risk is increased. The temperature only increased 5 degrees, yet the humidity pushed the total over the threshold. I live in a fairly arid (desert like) community, but the east coast may see days like this in the summer.
One of the other things we are diligent about is resting, and where we decide to rest. We always try to find a shady spot to rest and give the dogs a break. We always carry water and treats or a meal (depending on what our day looks like) and we will sit in a shady spot, even if that means we are resting in a corner on the black top of a crowded fair. While the boots protect against burning the paws, something to keep in mind is that dogs have sweat glands in their paws. While this may be a very minor way to express heat for the dog, and not as important as panting, with the boots on, they can get hot. Resting often, fresh water, and getting out of the sun for a while are all just good practice for dog handlers.
For those of you that are looking for shoes, we use shoes from Ruffwear that we love and have proved to last for years. The red pair you see here have been in service for at least 5 years. They have several different styles depending on usage, and several colors. Please note it is important to size them properly to ensure a good fit and keep them on, Ruffwear has a sizing chart on their site that you can use. There are other brands available from pet websites and big box pet stores, just make sure you get the correct size. Another product to look at is Mushers Secret, a wax type product that can be rubbed on the paw pads.
Hoping this information was helpful, and of course includes lots of pictures of “dogs wearing shoes!”. For us, it is all about the protection and comfort of the dog.