Wintertime has several seasonal challenges that many dog owners living in colder climates can face. Cold temperatures, snow, and salted pavements can make walking dogs very difficult and cause damage to their paw pads.
One way to protect your dog’s paws is to use dog boots. However, many dogs aren’t used to the feeling of boots on their feet and may resist wearing them. It’s impossible to verbally explain to your dog why it needs to wear boots, but it’s possible to train them to get used to them. So, before you put your dog’s boots on all its paws, make sure to expose them and train them to wear them properly.
The Top 5 Tips to Train Your Dog to Wear Dog Boots
1. Build a Positive Association with Boots
Start with building a positive association with the boots. Lay the boots on the ground and encourage your dog to approach them without being forceful. Every time your dog sniffs the boots or comes in contact with them, give it a treat and a lot of praise.
Once your dog gets used to seeing the boots, you can tap the boot lightly on top of its paw and immediately give it a treat. Keep doing this until your dog is completely comfortable being around the boots and starts anticipating a reward every time it touches the boot.
2. Put on One Boot with Dog Laying Down
Have your dog lie down and tap a boot against its paw. Reward it every time it doesn’t resist touching the boot. Once your dog is comfortable with the boot touching its paw, you can start to put one boot on its paw.
Undo all the straps and let the boot open as wide as possible. Then slip your dog’s paw through the boot and immediately take it back out. Reward your dog with a treat and praise. Keep doing this until your dog is completely calm whenever you slip on the boot.
3. Gradually Increase the Amount of Time the Boots Are On
Continue to stick with one paw and one boot and increase the amount of time the boot stays on the paw. You can start with 1 second and increase the time to 3 seconds. Keep working in increments until your dog becomes comfortable with wearing the boot for at least a minute.
Once your dog can wear a boot for about a minute, start tightening the straps. Keep rewarding your dog whenever it’s staying still. Once your dog is able to wear the boot with the straps tightened, you can add another boot to another paw. Keep working in steps until your dog is comfortable with wearing the boots while lying down.
4. Let Your Dog Walk Around Indoors in Boots
Next, let your dog stand up and get used to wearing the boots. Sometimes, it’s helpful to have your dog sit first rather than walk around. Reward your dog for staying calm and don’t react to any moments that your dog resists wearing the boots.
It can take several tries for your dog to get used to the boots. You may need to backtrack and have your dog wear boots on just its front paws and let it get used to this arrangement before wearing all the boots at once.
5. Go on Short Walks with Your Dog
Once your dog gets used to wearing the boots indoors, you can move forward with walking outside with the boots on. Make sure to bring some treats with you on your walk. Start by just walking around the front of your house. Encourage and praise your dog after walking several steps and give it some treats. Then, increase the distance of your walk as your dog feels more comfortable with the boots.
Additional Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Paws Healthy and Safe
Dogs that are especially resistant to boots may do better with paw wax instead. Some paw waxes are only meant to moisturize paw pads, but some have water-repellent formulas that provide some protection against snow and salt. Along with keeping the paws moisturized, many paw waxes can also repair mild to moderate cases of dry and cracked paw pads.
It’s also helpful to find safer exercise alternatives for extreme weather. Temperatures below 20°F are unsafe for most dogs to go outside for a walk. Smaller dogs and dogs with thin coats may feel too cold when temperatures fall below 45°F.
If daily walks are your dog’s main source of exercise, you may need to push walks to a later part of the day when the weather is warmest. Some neighborhoods have indoor dog parks where your dog can let loose. You can also sign your dog up for a dog daycare program to help it get some exercise.
Boots can protect your dog’s paws during the winter. When training your dog to wear boots, it’s important to work in increments that your dog is comfortable with so that you can build and maintain a positive association with the boots. With a bit of time and patience, your dog can learn to appreciate its boots and enjoy safer walks during the wintertime.
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Featured Image Credit: Brian Jones, Unsplash