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Dog Boots for Small Breeds: Finding the Perfect Fit
By Canada Pooch on Sep 14, 2023
For small breed dogs, finding well-fitted booties for their tiny paws can make all the difference in keeping them comfortable and protected. Ill-fitting dog boots that are too tight or too loose can end up doing more harm than good if they rub, chafe, or fall off while out and about. That's why taking the time to measure your petite pooch and understand their needs is key to finding the right dog boots for small breeds.
This article will cover everything you need to know about choosing the perfect small dog boots, from sizing and features to care and training. Follow our tips to outfit your little furry friend in booties tailored for their tiny toes!
Why Small Dogs Need Properly Fitted Boots
While dogs of all sizes can benefit from protective footwear, small and toy-breed dogs have some unique needs that make properly fitted boots critically important for their health and safety. Their tiny paws and low-to-the-ground stature expose them to more hazards that can injure their delicate feet.
A small dogs paw is much more sensitive and prone to injury than larger, tougher breeds. Their small size means they have less fat and fur protecting their toe pads and skin. Hot summer pavement, freezing winter temps, rough terrain, and irritating salt and ice melts can quickly damage the more fragile paws of petite pooches. Tightly fitted booties act as a barrier against environmental threats to keep sensitive small dog paws safe in many conditions.
Toy and small dogs take many more steps over the same distance traveled compared to medium and large dogs. For every few strides a big dog takes, a small dog may take a dozen steps. That's many more opportunities for unprotected paws to encounter hazards. Properly fitted boots ensure their frequent footfalls are cushioned throughout walks, protecting their paws with every step.
The short legs and low-to-the-ground bellies of small dogs put them in much closer contact with the ground surface than taller breeds. This exposes their paws excessively to heat from hot pavements, cold from frozen ground and snow, and moisture from rain and melting ice. Their low carriage also allows more direct contact with abrasive concrete, salted sidewalks, rocky paths, and other paw-irritating terrain. Getting the right fit on protective boots is key to providing a barrier between delicate tiny paws and the ground beneath.
Given their petite frames, smaller dogs cannot comfortably walk distances in heavy, stiff, or otherwise ill-fitting boots. The extra weight would quickly fatigue their little legs and paws. Seeking out flexible, lightweight dog boots is critical to avoid impeding their movement or tiring them out.
For all these reasons, investing in a properly fitted set of dog boots designed for the unique needs of small breeds helps keep tiny paws safe. Snug booties shield delicate feet across endless steps through diverse hazardous conditions.
Problems With Ill-Fitting Dog Boots
Getting the right fit is crucial when selecting dog boots. Improperly sized or shaped booties can lead to a number of issues that render them ineffective at best or even harmful at worst:
Boots That Are Too Big
Oversized boots will quickly slide right off your dog's feet, forcing you to constantly stop and re-adjust them during walks. This quickly becomes a frustrating hassle, especially with squirmy small pups. Excessively large boots also tend to rub and chafe the skin around your dog's ankles and between their toes. The friction of a loose boot can rapidly lead to sores and irritated skin.
In addition to sliding off frequently, big boots provide little protection. Hazardous debris can still easily enter and irritate paws. And without a snug fit, the boot doesn't immobilize the paw inside to prevent injuries from stepping on sharp objects or ice melt. Choosing boots with an adjustable closure can help achieve a tighter fit on big boots, but the excess size still allows too much movement inside.
Boots That Are Too Small
Boots sized too small for your dog's paws will quickly become painful and restricting. The constriction squeezes toes uncomfortably and impedes blood circulation. Dogs may show signs of pain like whining, licking their paws, or hesitating to walk. Severely undersized boots can even injure nail beds.
Beyond discomfort, boots too small in length or width limit natural foot motion and flexibility. Your dog will walk abnormally in stiff, tiny boots, which can lead to sprains or other injuries. The restrictive boots throw off their gait and stride. Small booties also won't stay on very well if constantly stretched by paws that are too big for the space.
Wrong Shape For Your Dog's Feet
Even if you get the length and width right, choosing a boot shape unsuited to your dog's foot can cause issues. Boots with an excessively narrow toe box will squeeze toes uncomfortably. Boots that are too rounded on a dog with more oval-shaped feet can twist their ankles inward with each step.
Consider your dog's foot shape and look for brands suited to that profile. Measure both length and width to capture full dimensions. If unsure, trace an outline of your dog's paw on paper and compare it to boot shapes before ordering.
Ill-fitting boots quickly become useless at protecting your dog's paws. But worse than wasted money, unsuitable booties can actively harm your pet and irritate their skin. There's no benefit to boots that constantly fall off, chafe and rub, or restrict natural movement. So measure carefully and get the size and proportions right!
Measuring Your Dog's Paws
To find properly fitted dog boots, you'll need accurate measurements of your pup's front and back paws. Follow these steps closely to get precise sizing:
- Use a soft, flexible cloth or paper tape measure. Avoid using stiff metal tape measures, which can poke tender paw pads. Seek a tape that contours to a paw shape.
- Have your dog stand on a flat, hard surface like a table or non-carpeted floor. Keep them standing squarely and still, not sitting or lying down, which spreads out paws.
- Place the flexible tape measure horizontally across the widest part of the paw, usually the paw pads and toes. This measurement is the width, so note it in inches or centimeters.
- Also, measure vertically from the lower edge of the paw pad up to the tip of the longest toe. This length is crucial for a boot fit. Record the length number.
- For accuracy, round measurements up to the nearest 1/8 inch. If your paw width or length dimension falls between boot sizes, always size up to the larger boot size.
- Take all four sets of measurements - front left paw, front right paw, rear left paw, and rear right paw. They may differ slightly in size.
- For especially squirmy, wiggly puppies or dogs, carefully trace the outline shape of each paw on paper to get dimensions.
Recording precise paw measurements, both width and length, provide the numbers needed to match your dog to well-fitted boots. Consult specific brand sizing info, but these dimensions get you started on finding the right boot size. Check that any new boots allow some room for growth if your dog is still growing. Proper measuring prevents disappointments from incorrect sizing.
Key Features to Look for in Small Breed Dog Boots
Once you know your petite pooch's paw measurements, keep these key features in mind when selecting the ideal small dog boots:
Adjustable Closures Are Essential
Boots for little dogs should absolutely have adjustable closures like velcro straps, snap straps, or toggle cords to ensure a customizable, snug fit around the ankle. Adjustable closures prevent sliding and let you tighten or loosen to the perfect close fit. They account for slight size fluctuations during growth or seasonal weight changes as well.
Avoid boots with no closures or fixed elastic bands which provide no adjustment. Slip-on style socks and booties will quickly stretch out permanently. Closures secure the boot firmly in place for active pups, while accommodating individual paw variations. Look for wide hook and loop velcro straps which prevent pressure points.
Seek Out Flexible, Non-Constricting Materials
Given small dogs' delicate paws and short gaits, it's crucial to select lightweight boots made of flexible, non-constricting materials. Rubber, mesh, spandex blends, and soft stretchy fabrics allow freedom of forward paw motion and full extension of toes.
Avoid stiff materials like hard plastic or poorly fitted leather and nylon that restrict natural foot movement. Your dog should be able to walk, run and move without impediment. See-through mesh booties allow you to visually inspect for rubs.
Textured Tread Provides Traction
Look for boots with textured rubber outsoles or tread patterns to provide stability and traction for small dogs on slippery surfaces like hardwood floors, icy sidewalks, dewy grass, and snow.
Paw-shaped treads with shallower grooves provide surface area grip while avoiding buildup of debris in deeper sole channels. Ensure the tread isn't overly thick or clunky since small dogs don't need heavy lug designs made for larger breeds.
Reflective Trim Improves Visibility
Tiny dogs are harder for motorists and bicyclists to see, so reflective strips, reflective threads woven into the fabric, or reflective patterns printed on the boots improve their visibility and safety for walks at dusk or nighttime.
Ligh-colored boots also help, but small dogs really benefit from reflective accents at low light times when drivers may not notice their petite profile. Position reflective patterns up high on the cuff for optimal visibility.
Seek Water Resistance With Breathability
Look for water-resistant boots to keep little paws dry when walking in rain, slush, mud, or dewy wet grass. However, ensure the material is still lightweight and breathable to prevent overheating and sweaty paws, which can also lead to irritation. No dog boot will be 100% waterproof, but coated fabrics provide water repellency and quick drying.
Considering these key features will help you select optimal boots for your small pup's needs from the endless options on the market. Keep their little paws happy in properly fitted boots!
Properly Caring for Your Dog's Boots
To keep your dog's boots in good condition for safe wear, follow these tips:
- Check sizing over time as puppy paws grow or gain/lose weight
- Hand wash dirty boots with gentle soap and water
- Allow boots to fully air dry between uses to prevent bacteria
- Check for damage like tears or worn treads and discard if present
- Apply a conditioning product to leather or fabric boots
- Store boots properly when not in use to avoid damage or distortion
Following the care instructions for the specific boot material will extend usable life. Replace boots once they become loose, worn or otherwise unfit.
Training a Dog to Wear Boots
If your pooch seems averse or confused by their new booties at first, use positive reinforcement training techniques to help them gradually get comfortable wearing their footwear. With time and patience, you can condition them to even enjoy their fashionable new kicks!
- Start by having your dog wear the properly fitted boots only indoors for very short, 5-10 minute periods. This initial exposure in a safe environment lets them slowly get used to the feel of wearing the boots. Reward with treats and praise for tolerance.
- Gradually increase the duration the boots are worn for indoor use. Expand to 30-60 minute periods while lounging around the house as they acclimate more to the sensation. Continue to reward and encourage them, petting them while booted.
- Next, move training outside but only in your own yard or driveway at first, staying close to home. Bring plenty of tasty treats to reward outdoor steps while booted. Keep these early outdoor sessions short as well.
- Slowly work up to wearing the boots on short 15-minute outdoor walks close to home. Bring treats on the walks, too. If they try to remove the boots, gently discourage but don't forcefully hold their paw down.
- As your dog adjusts more to wearing the boots in varied environments, you can expand to longer walks. But continue to praise and reward their tolerance. Make wearing boots a positive experience.
- Try distracting them from the boots with a fun activity like playing fetch or visiting a dog-friendly store while booted. This takes their mind off the unfamiliar footwear.
- Be extremely patient with timid dogs. Some pups readily embrace booties, while others require many incremental steps over weeks to grow comfortable. Let it happen at their pace without forcing.
With consistent positive reinforcement training, you can teach your dog not only to tolerate but hopefully enjoy their fashionable new functional footwear. The key is going slowly while making it a pleasant experience for them. In time, they may even get excited to have their boots put on!
When Should Dogs Wear Booties?
Dog boots aren't necessarily warranted for all activities and conditions. Here are some general guidelines on when protective footwear is beneficial for small pups versus situations where they may be unnecessary:
Use Booties In These Situations:
- Walking on scorching hot summer pavement or sand that could potentially burn delicate paw pads
- Running/walking on rough, uneven terrain such as rocky hiking trails where abrasions, cuts or bruising could occur
- In autumn and winter, during snow or heavy frost when ice melts chemicals are liberally used to clear sidewalks which can irritate paw skin and be toxic if ingested
- Anytime there is a risk of slipping and sliding on packed snow or ice, which could lead to strains or sprains of legs, paws and joints
- In rainy conditions, when paths and grass become slippery mud or where puddles collect
- In the woods and fields to protect against plant irritants like burrs, stickers, thorns, and noxious weeds sticking to fur and paws
- Jogging or running on abrasive concrete or asphalt sidewalks and paths can wear down paw pad tissue over time
- In dirty conditions to keep paws cleaner and prevent tracking mud indoors
Skip the Booties In These Situations:
- When indoors or relaxing in a grassy, shaded yard at reasonable temperatures
- Take very quick short trips, such as a potty break in your own yard
- In cool weather, when no ice-melting chemicals are present
- Walking on soft ground like sand, soil, grass, or forest floors with no hazards
- In mild weather on concrete or asphalt, if your dog is accustomed to these hard surfaces
- Anytime your dog displays distress, anxiety, or phobia regarding booties - don't force it!
As you can see, dog boots are very beneficial in some conditions but unnecessary overkill in others. Get a feel for when they are warranted based on your climate, the terrain you walk, and your dog's tolerance. Invest in well-fitted booties to keep tiny pups comfortable exploring the great outdoors!
Frequently Asked Questions
New dog owners often have questions when selecting the first pair of boots for their small breed pup. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
How tight should dog boots be?
Dog boots should be snug enough not to slide off but not constrict toes or blood flow. They should allow natural paw movement. Err on the side of slightly looser if between sizes.
Can I put socks on my dog instead?
Socks alone don't offer adequate protection outside. They can slip off easily and provide no traction or barrier from heat/cold. Opt for purpose-made dog boots for outdoor walks.
Is it ok for dogs to wear boots all day?
Dogs should not wear booties constantly all day every day. Give paws breaks and air time. Limit outdoor boot use to periods of hazard exposure like winter walks.
Do dog boots come in sizes for large breeds?
Yes, dog boots are made in sizes for everything from teacup Chihuahuas to extra large Mastiffs. Consult sizing guides to choose the appropriate boot size for your dog breed.
Should I buy 2 sets of boots for front and back feet?
It's common for front and back paw sizes to differ slightly. Measure all paws and buy boots for the bigger size if there is a discrepancy. No need for 2 pairs.