The saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” is as true for dogs as it is for humans. Our adventures take us to a wide variety of ecosystems and weather types. One week we can be deep in a forest in 99% humidity with soft, moist ground. Our next stop might find us in a desert of 10% or less humidity with hard volcanic rock shards, hot sand and nasty spiky, stabby flora. We have been known to spend time in coastal areas covered in sharp coral and little critters who can defend themselves with tooth and claw. We also regularly spend time in the realms of snakes, scorpions or other ground-level sharp-implemented little critters that might take offense at having a dog paw smacked down upon them and retaliate. Plus then there is also hot asphalt to contend with on occasion. If I am not willing to walk on something barefoot why would I force my dog to do so? If it is too hot or too sharp for me to touch why would I ask my dog to stand on it with her dainty little Princess Paws? The answer to both of those questions is: I’m not going to.
Since Willow became my adventuring partner she has had specialized clothing to deal with a variety of environments. For her aforementioned Little Dainty Princess Paws she has at her disposal a pair of Ruffwear Grip Trex boots.
I want to say “booties” but that denotes flimsy, silk, baby booties to me and these are nothing like that at all. These are far more like a canine version of Keen shoes or Teva sandals. Lightweight, breathable uppers with sturdy, grippy, actual Vibram soles.
I wouldn’t say she is a huge fan of wearing them but sometimes Daddy knows Best. Actually, daddy knows best all the time. If I know we are going to be hoofing it on something that has the potential to cause damage to her paws I’ll preemptively put these on. Even after wearing them dozens of times she still gives me a frown when I put them on and then walks like she’s on the moon for five minutes until she gets used to them again. She has been known though to actually “request” them on occasion. Usually, when she gets a single thorn, thistle or stick stuck in a paw she just sits down and rips it out with her teeth. There are certain little nasties though (we’re looking at you Cholla Cacti) whose vicious little defensive mechanisms effectively prevent that from happening.
More than once when out in stabby/spiky country (i.e. the desert) she will come back after romping out in the wild limping and holding out whatever paw is causing her distress. If it is really bad she just sits down and whines until she gets my attention and I come valiantly to the rescue. Then the boots go on and I get the hangdog look and treatment until she figures out, “Oh, hey, this is much better” and then does her happy little Lipizzaner Prance of unbridled joy.
We have spent extended periods in places where the main component of the ground is rock. Not sand or dirt, but rock. Over time the continued pounding as she romps around begins to wear the skin of her paws down and they get a bit raw. She has also come back limping because she landed poorly on the pointy end of a rock and bruised one of those Princess Paw Pads. The solution or preventative measure for either of those scenarios is making her wear the boots.
There are certain environments where the design of the boots has some shortcomings though. The main ones I am thinking about are when we are playing in small gravel or deep sand. In both cases the gravel and/or sand can get into the top of the boots and collect around her feet inside making them uncomfortable to wear and less protective than ideal. In the past I would just take them off one at a time and shake them out. What a pain in the ass. To hopefully remedy those issues we have now purchased a set of Ruffwear Summit Trex boots.
These have a built-in sock/liner (Ruffwear calls it a stretch gaiter) that will supposedly seal her ankle area and not allow dirt, rocks and the like to get into the boots themselves.
At first glance they do not seem as sturdy as the Grip Trex. The soles are now Ruffwear branded and not as thick as the Vibram ones. The side protection is not sewed on leather (or pleather or whatever they use on the Grip Trex) but painted on/dipped vinyl.
The strap that goes around her ankle and secures the boots is not as wide. Getting them on is a little harder because the gaiters want to be closed and so you have to actively hold them open while trying to slip each paw in with its toes splayed in defiant annoyance. We’ve only had these on once for a trial romp inside my sister’s house so I assume each time we actually need to put them on will get easier than the last time.
Maybe the new materials are better and tougher than the old version and will hold up just as well. They seem lighter and more flexible so they might be more comfortable as well. Their retail price is less expensive than the Grip Trex so they might possibly be a lighter weight solution. For the time being we are going to use these as her default boot option and see how well they perform in a variety of situations. Only time will tell.