These dog boot(ies) were made for walking...

Should your pup wear dog booties this winter? A review of Ruffwear Grip Tex booties & advice on how to wear them. By Jason Henrichs & Lola/Preparation Concierge

Dog trcks: Lola, displaying her Ruffwear booties

Why would you want dog booties, anyway?

In case of an emergency or disaster situation, you need to think of your pets. You'll need a plan to accommodate them, just like an emergency plan for any part of your family. And if you have a large dog, you need to think about how you would evacuate that pup. If you have to do it on foot, then you must actually think of their feet.

Says Jeff Franklin, Preparation Concierge's expert on all things dog: "After an event like a hurricane, a dog may find itself walking over sharp things or through water. They have pads on their feet. And while it's a thick pad, it’s not a pair of boots. We see a lot of dogs with pretty severe injuries on their feet."

So he recommends booties like the Ruffwear Grip Tex booties, with Vibram soles. However, most dogs don't love wearing foreign objects on their feet. Says Franklin: "With dogs, consistency is everything. And they have a short attention span. So start with those two minutes a day and work up to five minutes the next week. Then ten, and so on. Eventually you will only have to put the booties on once a month to remind the dog what they feel like."

So five-year-old Chicago native, Lola, and her human companion, Jason Henrichs, tried them out for several months in the late fall and early winter. Walks, runs, hikes: They did it all. How did it go? Find out below!

[For Preparation Concierge's full list of gear & advice, see our Pet section.]

The Grip Tex review: A dog and her sole(s)...

Lola, our golden retriever, may be a city dog, but she loves the outdoors. Lola is an active hiker (trust her, she thinks she knows where she’s going), and going for long walks (“You aren’t tired yet, are you dad?”). Our five year old was born in North Carolina, but she’s spent her life in the plains of Illinois and the woods of Minnesota & Wisconsin. These environments are anything but gentle on this Southern Belle’s paws.

Winter in the upper Midwest brings a series of hardships. Snow and ice get trapped in the fur between a dog's soft pads, the doggy equivalent of walking on broken glass. A dog like Lola who is normally all go-go-go, can find herself limping home or leaving bloody footprints across the floor.

These conditions bring another peril: salt. Even without cut-up paws, de-icing salt burns sensitive paws (and leaves white foot prints across the floor when you get home). Summer has its own maladies. Hot concrete and asphalt are equally harsh and can cause overheating; the paw pad is one of the major ways a dog vents heat. Warmer temperatures also mean longer walks and runs on abrasive concrete as well as hiking trips, often up steep rocky inclines that can both damage feet or lack traction.

[For Preparation Concierge's full list of gear & advice, see our Pet section.]

The trouble with booties...

Well, it's simple. Most dogs hate them. We’ve tried multiple solutions, including the balloon-like rubber socks for winter and several different kinds of booties. The balloons are nearly useless for an active dog. Lola can barely make it through a walk without a sock being shredded.

The Ruffwear booties are by far the most versatile of the canine footwear we’ve tried. We’ve accomplished several long runs over ice with no wear and tear.

So we moved on to booties, testing three different style before the Ruffwear model. The first didn’t provide enough room for her paws to flex; the second provided more room but refused to stay on, a problem accentuated by her stopping every block and biting at the Velcro straps. The last set were the most comfortable, but didn't have enough traction. In a word: They were useless.

And so the Ruffwear Grip Tex...

The Ruffwear boots are by far the most versatile of the canine footwear we’ve tried. They are adequately waterproof to solve the housekeeping issues that drive my wife nuts. They are also the best blend of tough protection and flexible comfort that allows us to stay out longer in harsh conditions. We’ve accomplished several long runs over ice with no wear and tear.

We no longer need to stop every half mile as Lola attempts to bite them off her paws. Still, that doesn’t mean she leaps for joy when the booties come out of the closet...

Lessons learned

Proper acclimation is key before your first outdoor activity. The universal response to having their paws covered is to stop dead still. When coaxed into moving, most dogs, Lola included, do this crazy high step until they get they get the rhythm. The lack of sensory feedback dogs draw from their paws is confusing for them.

To overcome Lola’s hesitation, we performed indoor drills before venturing out. The first episode was her favorite. With her Ruffwear boots on, I had her stay and then called her to me across the room with a special treat. The foreign objects on her feet were no match for the aroma of thinly sliced pieces of cooked hot dog. (We repeated this exercises far fewer times than Lola hoped.)

The boots came off, but we repeated the process for a few times per day over the weekend. Another activity was playing fetch in the basement. The combination of a squeaky ball and treats overcame all apprehension.

The verdict?

While Lola hasn’t told us directly, I know that they don’t annoy her to the point that we need to stop every half mile and attempt to bite them off her paws. That doesn’t mean she leaps for joy when they come out of the closet, but at least I’m not chasing her around the first floor until I can put them on. Like any of the other boots, they require time to acclimate and frequent checks mid-activity to ensure they haven’t come loose. But they work. And they keep her paws safe.

In an emergency, I know, that last part is the most important thing. We keep one set of the Ruffwear boots in the entry closet, and one with our go bag.

[For Preparation Concierge's full list of gear & advice, see our Pet section.]

About Lola: She's five, she lives in Chicago, and she loves all things outdoor (and her human family). About Jason Henrichs: An entrepreneur who lives in Chicago, Jason works in FinTech and also loves all things outdoors. Find him @jasonhenrichs.

About us: Preparation Concierge is devoted to emergency planning and disaster preparation. We offer users level 101 information and advice , and a smartly curated list of gear, food, and water solutions and even a dedicated emergency Pet section. We take a particular interest in urban and suburban areas — these populations are especially fragile and susceptible to disasters, and are often the most unprepared.

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