If there’s snow, little ice balls form with the salt between your pet’s pads…which has to feel something like walking with marbles between your toes. It’s not fun.
You might prevent this by wiping the paws with Vaseline or applying PAM cooking spray, before you let the dog out. However, a better answer is the B word: Booties.
Men, especially, tend not to like their big, tough-guy dogs in booties because it’s not "macho.” Anchorage, Alaska, veterinarian Dr. Todd Palmatier, who often treats those sled dogs, points out, "Yes, even sled dogs wear booties. And these dogs are obviously well-trained and accustomed to being in the elements. Certainly, by living the good life indoors their foot pads get soft, and they’re not used to the harsh realities of winter – this is even true in Anchorage.”
If grandpa visits and laughs at your dog in booties, saying, "Back in my day…” – well, he might be right, to a degree. After all, dogs no longer live in the dog house out back; they’re curled up on a doggy bed next to the vent that blows warm air on them. Maybe they have gotten a little "soft.” But hardened to the elements or not, street salt remains an issue. Booties keep the salt and also those little ice balls from imbedding in the pads.
Among toy breed dogs, keeping warm is an issue, too, and booties can help. But you can’t just stick booties on a dog and expect him to like it -or even to walk in them.
Begin the bootie experience by making it a fun one. Offer treats while putting just one bootie on indoors. Let your dog eat a meal or play a game wearing one bootie. Day by day add another bootie until all four paws are covered. Then take the bootie games outdoors.
The biggest issue with some booties is that they can easily fall off as dogs step into snow drifts. Their feet come out, but the booties get trapped in the snow. In general, booties attached with Velcro straps stay on the paws better than those that are tied. However, different booties fit different dogs differently. Certainly, if the booties seem like they’re going to fall off when your dog wears them indoors, there’s no way they’ll stay on outside. If your dog is seriously chewing at the booties, talk with a dog trainer or resign yourself to the fact that your dog is one of the few that just won’t tolerate them. (In that case, make sure to wash your dog’s feet thoroughly with warm water whenever you come in from a winter walk.)
In general though, once they become acclimated to them, most dogs seem to actually appreciate the booties – even macho dogs.