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I wouldn’t say I’m exactly a regular hiker, but every so often I do like to find an isolated location and walk for miles with Janice and Leroy. We wear ourselves out walking along clifftops or through the woods, or roaming rocky beaches, and then we come home exhausted and feeling fully justified in enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate (me) a few jerky treats (them) and a good snuggle under a warm blanket while binge-watching “Supernatural” on Netflix (all of us).
When I first decided to take up hiking (albeit on a sporadic basis), I made the mistake of buying cheap boots. I’ve never been a “shoe” person, and my take on footwear is, if footwear is comfortable, not so ugly that it scares small children, and no more than $30, it’s good enough for me.
I quickly learned that this is not a good philosophy to follow when buying hiking boots. My first foray into trekking the great outdoors in cheap boots brought me home with blisters like you wouldn’t believe, so I have invested in a proper pair of boots.
I got to thinking, though – how easy were these long walks on my dogs’ feet? After all, Janice and Leroy are usually accustomed to sidewalks, or soft grass at the dog park. They’re not exactly rugged outdoor adventurers! Should I think about buying them some hiking boots?
The decision was pretty much made on the day that we returned from a beach walk, and Janice’s left forepaw was bleeding. Whether she cut it on a rock, a shell, or a bit of glass didn’t matter. What did matter was that my best girl was hurt!So, I immediately started Googling, looking for the best dog boots for hiking. I’ll let you know the results in a bit, but first let’s talk about doggie hiking boots in general.
If you love hiking, and you love your dog, it just makes sense that you’ll want to take him along with you when you’re out and about. I’m thinking that you probably wouldn’t want to walk barefoot through the woods or along a rocky shore, so why would you make your dog do it? He’s your best buddy, right? So, provide him with the best dog boots for hiking.
With a decent set of boots, your dog’s feet are protected, and he can happily traipse along with you for miles. His feet will be protected from scratches and cuts. This can be particularly important if he has soft feet due to being indoors most of the time.
Finding the Best Dog Boots for Hiking
Choosing the best dog boots for your hiking companion might not be all that easy, since you have a lot of things to consider – how often do you hike? What type of terrain will you be traveling? Are you dog’s feet generally in good condition? And what about quality? As I discovered with my own hiking boots, there’s a huge range in quality and comfort from one product to another. And when it comes to dog boots, quite often the quality is lacking.
Putting it this way, I’ve never had any trouble finding great collars, sturdy leashes, awesome toys, etc. But it seems as though many of the companies that manufacture accessories for our canine friends haven’t quite caught up when it comes to creating the best dog boots for hiking.
What to Look For
The most important thing to look for when you’re evaluating the best dog boots for hiking is boots that fit properly. You know how you feel when you’re wearing a pair of shoes that are a bit too big, and your feet feel like they’re sliding around. You have also probably experienced the scraping and pinching caused by shoes that are on the small side for your feet. Your dog is going to be just as uncomfortable as you would be in ill-fitting footwear. The best dog boots for hiking will fit snugly, but won’t be so small that they cut off circulation or so big that the paw ends up being rubbed with each step.
You should also look for thick soles – imagine how you would feel, for instance, walking along that rock-strewn beach wearing something like ballet flats! Your hiking boots have sturdy soles, and your dog’s hiking boots should, too.
Many dogs dislike the procedure of having boots placed on their feet, so the best dog boots for hiking will have Velcro closures. This makes them very easy to put on and take off. If your dog isn’t used to boots, take a bit of time to get him accustomed to wearing them. Let him wear them around the house a bit, and in the yard, before you hit the trails. If he still seems to be unhappy wearing the boots, it could be that the size isn’t right, or something else in the structure of the boots is making him uncomfortable. You might want to try another size, or even another brand of boot.
Remember, too, that there can be a lot of differences in dog feet depending on the breed. Webbed paws, for instance, are going to fit differently into a hiking boot than non-webbed. If you’re not sure how to choose the best dog boots for your hiking partner, ask your vet if he or she recommends any particular brand.
You could also ask for advice at your pet supply store, but keep in mind that, like dog paws, one pet store might be very different from another. You could end up getting a good, solid recommendation from someone who is passionate about dogs and knows everything there is to know about various accessories. Or, you could end up getting an opinion from an under-paid, overworked drone who doesn’t know, and doesn’t especially want to know anything beyond, “This is how much these boots are going to cost, and do you want socks with that?”
Breeders and trainers are also good sources of information when it comes to choosing the best dog boots for hiking.
Care of the Boots and Paws
Hiking boots are not generally completely waterproof, so following your outdoor adventure, check the insides of the boots to see if they’re wet. Then dump out any water that might have pooled inside the boots, and stuff them with newspaper to absorb the remaining moisture.
Now, check your dog’s paws to see if there are any cuts or scrapes. If there are, these are probably not the right boots for your dog. You should also thoroughly clean any wounds in order to avoid infection. Use an antibacterial cleanser or hydrogen peroxide. Don’t use alcohol – you know how you feel when you disinfect a wound using alcohol. Yes, it’s effective, but it also hurts, and you don’t want to cause your dog any pain. Next, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover the wound with gauze and tape to discourage licking.
If there are any really deep lacerations (this is unlikely, though), check the boot to see if anything has cut through it. If the cuts on your dog’s feet won’t stop bleeding, or if your dog seems to be in pain, a trip to the vet might be a good idea.
Once you find the right boots for your dog, you might want to invest in a second set, especially if you’re a frequent hiker. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, you’ll never have to worry about not having wearable boots – if one set is drying out, just use the back-up boots. Also, if the boots become damaged and are not usable, you don’t have to forego your hike while you go out shopping for a new set.
My Top Picks for the Best Dog Boots for Hiking
Now that you know why you should get your dog some hiking boots, and what you should look for, here are three offerings that I think are among the very best dog boots for hiking.
1. Musher’s Secret Invisible Dog Boots
Sometimes, the best dog boots for hiking aren’t actually boots at all! If your dog absolutely hates the idea of wearing boots, Musher’s Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax could be a good alternative.
Musher’s Secret is a wax-based cream that you put on your dog’s pads. It will absorb to some extent, and that’s not a bad thing because it moisturizes your dog’s feet. It also creates a barrier, though, between your dog’s feet and whatever he’s walking on. Of course, it won’t help much if your dog steps on something sharp, but it will protect against minor scrapes and scratches. It’s also great for winter use, guarding against cracking due to salt and ice.
The Ruffwear Grip Trex Dog Boots are great for hiking, because they have nice, sturdy soles. The uppers are made from woven mesh that breathes while keeping dirt out, and the strap closure is adjustable so there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to fit. Another feature I really like is the reflective materials incorporated into the design – if you like to walk in the fog, for instance, you’ll be able to see your dog a bit better.
The only thing I can find to criticize about these boots is that they’re not waterproof – so if your hike takes you along rivers and streams, or to the beach, your dog’s feet will get wet. If this troubles you, then you should look for waterproof boots. On the whole, though, I have no reservations about including this pair on my list of the best dog boots for hiking.
For really sturdy boots that are also waterproof, the thick-soled E-TECHing Waterproof Dog Boots are a great choice. They feature a split top with Velcro closures, so they’re very easy to get on and off. The sole is anti-slip, so you can rest assured that your dog is not likely to take a tumble and hurt himself while navigating rough terrain.
You won’t find any reflective elements on these boots as you do with the Ruffwear Grip Tex, but the bright red color is pretty visible. I have to admit that I like the cute “paw” embroidery, too.
So, those are my top three choices for the best hiking boots for dogs, one of which isn’t even boots! I’ve tried to narrow down my picks to allow for a variety of different hiking conditions, and I think these three are fairly representative of what you’ll need for the different sorts of conditions you’re likely to encounter when taking long walks with your dog. Of course, there are other types of dog boots available, so shop around and find the boots that are best for your dog.
What did I buy for Janice and Leroy? I actually got all three. I use the Ruffwear boots for woods and clifftops, and the E-TECHing for visits to the beach. And I also purchased the Musher’s Secret – not for hiking, but for those nasty winter days.
The best dog boots for hiking will depend on a number of factors – where you plan to go, the shape and size of your dog’s feet, how comfortable your dog is having boots put on and removed, and even your aesthetic preferences. The main thing when choosing hiking boots for your dog though, is the same thing that you would consider when buying hiking boots for yourself – fit, comfort and durability. If you have those three factors covered – for your dog’s boots and yours as well – then you’ve got everything in hand. Happy trails!