A Weird Observation
In the dead of winter, with an icy driveway and inches of snow, your beloved Rocky howls relentlessly at the door—a telling sign that he desperately has to go outside and pee. For you, this means bundling up in layers of clothing and, of course, putting on a warm pair of shoes. For Rocky, however, the affair is far more straightforward: open the door for me so I can run outside, find a bush, tree, or wall that I like and ‘let it go.’
It’s puzzling then that your bare feet can hardly withstand a cold floor, let alone the icy terrain outside while Rocky seems adept at traversing nearly any kind of ground. In fact, putting Rocky in boots would have him comically marching around the house like a puppet in the hands of an amateur puppeteer! What is so unique about your dog’s paws, and why does the addition of boots to them result in a weird way of walking?
A Dog’s Paw
The intricate system that is your dog’s body has many amazing features that serve to insulate your dog against the extremes of weather. Rocky’s paw, for example, is made of special tissue that is designed to protect him from temperatures as low as -35°C. Working in tandem with this is a high core temperature that essentially invalidates the need for boots or other forms of ‘peripheral warming.’ Dogs are incredible creatures whose adaptation to diverse climates ensures their survival without the need for clothing.
A study conducted in Japan gives insight into how dogs’ paws are somewhat resistant to cold. Underneath the paw, a complicated system of veins and capillaries moderates heat loss. When exposed to cold, these blood vessels become smaller to minimize heat loss to the immediate environment (vasoconstriction). The opposite happens in warmer conditions in order to lose more heat to the environment (vasodilation). The study showed that when a dog’s paw is exposed to cold, it works to recirculate heat back to the core of the dog’s body, a process which may include raising the temperature of cold blood before recirculating it. In addition to this network of blood vessels, the paw itself is composed of freeze-resistant tissue with underlying fat. Tim Newcom of Time parallels this design to that of the penguin’s wing. Having the toughest skin on a dog’s body, it’s apparent Rocky’s paws were designed to handle the icy driveway you would consider intolerable.
One would think then that dog shoes fit right into the bracket of thermoregulation, any pup would readily pick up on having an extra layer around their paws. In reality, this is hardly the case. To understand why dogs walk weird in an accessory we imagine would help them, we need to consider their instinctive upbringing. Yes, a dog can learn to walk somewhat normally in dog shoes, but this involves merging this knowledge with what comes instinctively for dogs.
Why Do Dogs Walk Weird With Boots or Shoes?
The understanding highlighted above helps us to realize that dogs don’t actually need boots, but they do need special care to prevent and heal dry, cracked paws as well as keep them hydrated. While your dog may eventually outgrow the comical stomping and learn to walk more ‘naturally’ in them, for the most part, boots serve no greater purpose than merely being fashion accessories (a concept far beyond the grasp of your canine friend). Of course, specific uses for boots exist, and we will discuss these later on.
As an alternative to dog boots, Dr. Maggie offers a Paw Protector wax to help protect your dog’s paws from drying and cracking. It’s made from a variety of natural ingredients that all support healing and safeguarding your dog’s paws. These ingredients include:
Coconut Oil: speeds wound healing and increases the hydration of paws to soothe and soften skin.
Cocoa Butter: high in fatty acids, providing deep hydration and nutrients to the skin.
Almond Oil: high in antioxidants and healthy fats which nourish and strengthen skin cells to allow them to retain more moisture.
Shea Butter: incredibly nourishing and moisturizing for healing dry skin. Anti-inflammatory effects soothe irritation and may even protect against mutations in skin cells.
Beeswax: forms a protective barrier over the pad without clogging pores. It has also been shown to rehydrate and rebuild damaged skin cells.
Lecithin: prevents moisture loss and increases moisture levels. Use daily to prevent cracked pads and noses.
Calendula: provides soothing relief on irritated paws and skin while speeding the healing of wounds, cuts and cracks.
Plus, it’s designed to not only protect your dog from harsh elements in winter, but also heal their pads as well. As an added bonus, your dog also has extra traction running or walking around on slippery floors so they can be active with you without any worry of injury.
Initially, what you would observe as walking weird is your dog accounting for a lack of balance and friction underneath their paws. From birth, dogs instinctively rely on their bare paws for clinging onto different kinds of surfaces and terrains. Their footpads give feedback on the rate at which they are walking as well as what they are standing on. When the feedback loop (called proprioception) is hindered by shoes or even a bandage, a dog assumes that their foot is stuck and the presence of increased pressure from boots only propagates this suspicion. Thus, we observe the dog walking as if it’s trying to release its paw from a position of temporary imprisonment. All of this happens instinctively, of course, which is why paw wax is a better choice.
The confusion exhibited by dogs when first learning to walk in boots is much like the confusion any of us would exhibit if we switched to a world where left and right were reversed or, better yet, the struggle seen in people learning to walk in high-heeled shoes.
Applications of Dog Boots
In rare cases, dog boots can be beneficial.
As we have seen thus far, out in the wild, dogs’ paws suffice for moving on many different surfaces without the need for boots of any kind. However, it’s beneficial to hydrate and protect their paws against the drying action of snow, salt, and ice (what Dr. Maggie Paw Protector Wax is perfect for).
Here are a few examples of dogs where should/do wear boots:
- In Germany. Police dogs wear ‘uniform colored’ boots to protect them from shards of broken glass left by drunkards.
- Service dogs. They often wear shoes because they frequent metal ramps and other hot surfaces.
- Hot surfaces like tar. You wouldn’t want to walk on hot tar barefooted, and neither does your dog.
If you want to protect your dog’s paw pads but don’t want to throw your pet off balance or potentially harm their toes, paw wax is perfect. Dr. Maggie Paw Protector which is made from natural ingredients and is non-toxic. Plus, it can soothe dry or cracked pads on their feet so they can get back to walking and running comfortably.
Rocky’s body is designed to take on the world in all its textures and temperatures. From birth, he’s learned to traverse this world to the best of his ability and to survive without boots. This explains why, when confronted with walking in dog shoes, it’s unnatural for them.
At Nature Pet Store we believe that nature has provided the best medicines of all and that pets deserve only the very best! We are passionate about pet health, pet behaviours, and pet training.