Walking your pooch during winter months is a daunting prospect for many dogs and their owners as the animals' feet are tormented by ice and burning salt.
Catherine Miller, a professional dog walker and founder of Pet Nanny NYC, says the best "pawtection" are dog boots.
Metropolitan and suburban sidewalks and roads are coated with salt during the winter season, so it's important to be aware that most de-icers are toxic to dogs. Without proper protection, dogs commonly will stop dead in their tracks, or hobble on three legs to avoid stepping any further on salt ridden roads.
"Hands down dog boots are the best winter protection. It protects dogs from frostbite and salt. Now I know a dog is a dog, and let them be a dog, but when you're in a certain kind of environment that is man made and potentially dangerous, we should protect them from that manmade problem, " Miller said.
Often you hear people say their dog doesn't wear cushy footwear simply because they won't walk in them or they gnaw at their footwear like there's bacon inside, but the owner is probably not consistently applying the training needed, and may just feel frivolous having a dog with shoes on.
"Dogs tend to not to like wearing the boots at first, so acclimate them to wearing them by putting them on your dog for short periods of time in the house. Praise them and gradually increasing the length of time as they get used to them," dog expert Caesar Milan points out on his website .
Dog walking with booties takes training, and it is a process canine owners must commit to in order to get past the "Frankenstein feet" phase.
Miller feels that two weeks tends to be an average, if your consistent and disciplined, on when you see a dog tolerate booties.
"Remember, if you're frustrated while doing it, they'll sense your energy and become frustrated and anxious too. You need to step away for a second, calm yourself down, and then go back to it. You cannot approach this with blood boiling. Make this an adventure and a place of fun," said Miller.
Miller, who has been walking dogs for over 10 years, feels that you can find a good pair of dog boots with treads ranging from $20-$60 online.
"Snow boots with treads over rubbers are also preferable. Rubbers will begin sticking and are uncomfortable for the pup after several wears, and you're walking your dog a lot. In the long run, a good pair that fits properly are like human shoes. you have to invest in the money in a nicer pair to have the right fit," said Miller.
A good pair of dog boots is not just for winter weather. They will come in handy with hot pavement or rocky hikes during summer months too.
Another option for paw protection besides boots is applying a thin layer of protective balm or wax to your pup's pads, though this method may not be ideal for slushy city walking.
"There is dog wax you can put on, though I don't find it as effective as booties. Unlike boots, the wax will allow your dog's paws to still bleed because they are too dry and leaves them exposed to the cold," Miller said.
Following frequent short walks in the winter, no matter the form of paw protection, "Dog Whisperer" Milan stressed it's always important to immediately wash dog's paws with warm water to help prevent them from ingesting any salt or chemicals. Doggy Wet Wipes are a good option to have and you can keep them right by your front door.