Are dog "booties" necessary on rough trails? Opinions? Experience wih dogs on long, rough trails.

10:15 p.m. on May 24, 2009 (EDT)
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My husband and I do a lot of hiking. We just got our first dog, an Akita, who has proven to be hardworking, loyal, intelligent and a great outdoor enthusiast. As we take her on longer and tougher trails, I'm wondering if the rough scree and abrasive rock on the trails are hurting her paws. I know you can purchase "booties" for dogs to protect their feet, but are they necessary? I didn't think so until I felt how sharp scree fields can be when you don't have thick soled boots on! I'd appreciate any shared experience on this topic. Anyone had problems with their dogs feet being hurt on a rough, rocky trails? Do dog's foot pads naturally toughen up?

Also, we've introduced a light backpack and have been slowly adding weight to it.
Anyone have advise on how much weight can an adolensent working breed dog comfortably carry?

I'd appreciate any advise on hiking with my dog. "Ursa" is 10 months old, strong and active. She's already very well mannered on the trail. She's my first dog, though, and I want to make sure I'm not hurting her in my ignorance.

11:05 p.m. on May 24, 2009 (EDT)
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There has been quite a bit of discussion on Trailspace about dogs.

Some of the results can be found here.

One thing you should consider is that your dogs paw pads are not tough to begin with. They're not like your shoes. Many people think they are, they're not. Also, dogs that spend a lot of time inside do not have the hard pads that outdoor dogs develop. They WILL toughen and callus with time on the trail though. Go slow and don't go too far or work your dog too hard to start.

I've made such mistakes with my 4 legged friend and ended up carrying him for the last 2 miles of a hike, bloody-pawed. I felt like a real schmuck.

12:26 a.m. on May 25, 2009 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace culrlyshirley,

F klock is correct, your dogs pads require conditioning in order to be tough, similar to humans going barefoot, calluses will develop and the foot gets tougher with time.

I also have an Akita, a male named Boo. He goes with me on solo trips in more remote areas of the Southern Appalachians 3 or 4 times a year, and on day hikes close to home. Properly conditioned and trained these are impressive hiking companions, very smart and alert, not easily given to a lot of "tom foolery".

I would say that booties are not a necessity, but that does not mean they have no merit. On the contrary, booties are used to protect the dogs feet from a harsh surface such as snow or sharp rocks, and / or just the wear and tear of a long trek. If the dogs pads are getting cut on the scree, protection of some kind is in order I would think. Some people use wool socks instead of booties for dry rocky trails, but booties are the preferred choice for snow it seems.

I do not have much experience with my dog in snow, mostly on soil & rocky surfaces. I know others here on Trailspace recommend booties for trekking in snow to keep the snow from balling up between the pads among other reasons.

My current dog hates booties, we go into some pretty steep terrain and I think the booties cause him to loose a lot of traction and dexterity that he normally has without the booties. Barefooted he can dig in with his massive feet and nails.

Having said that, I have to pay close attention to the condition of his pads, especially in rocky terrain. I like to do a quick check every couple of hours when in rock than can be sharp This does not take but a few seconds and should not turn into a big ordeal if you start training your dog for a pad check beginning with short walks around your home.

It has been very useful for me to carry a small first aid kit I made up to deal with cuts and such. You also want to avoid letting the dogs pads stay too wet or too dry, both can cause problems. A light coating of Vaseline seems to help my dog with both problems. Just like as with our feet, proper care, catching problems early, and having first aid supplies on hand has been the best way I've found to keep my dogs feet healthy and in great shape.

Lots of info on the web about proper care and treatment of your dogs feet, plus which first aid supplies to pack and how to use them.

All in all, I would say whether or not you use booties on the dog will depend a lot on the environment you expect to encounter, the length of the trip, & how tough your dogs pads are. Quite honestly, I also took into consideration how happy my dog is with the decision as well, not from a training perspective, but how well he could navigate with or without them.

As far as your dog carrying a pack, I would avoid much weight in the pack until the dog has completely stopped growing, which can be upwards of 18 months for Akitas and other large breeds. A good rule of thumb is that a healthy dog can carry up to 1/3 their body weight. I prefer to keep it around 20 - 25% max.

Stressing the joints with a heavy pack during the growing period can cause problems in both the short and long term. I would work up to weight and distance slowly over a period of weeks to months after consulting with your VET and taking a professionals advise under consideration. Also maybe make it rewarding to your dog, have special treats just for when she wears the pack on hikes, works for me.

Dogs can be a lot of fun and a great companion, however, sadly a lot of dog owners do not manage their dogs very well and create a wide range of problems for other hikers. It is very important for us dog owners to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes in order to be considerate of other hikers on the trail, some of whom have had bad experiences with dogs on the trail. I keep my dog on leash unless in really remote areas. I personally will yield the trail to other groups, and have trained my dog to quietly sit still at my side while I say hello. For many people, seeing that your dog is well behaved & trained puts them at ease.

Hope that helps, tell Ursa I said HI! (Great name BTW)

10:19 a.m. on May 25, 2009 (EDT)
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Here is a site with some good info about care and maintenance of a dogs paw pads.

4:44 p.m. on May 26, 2009 (EDT)
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Good knowledge.

7:26 p.m. on May 26, 2009 (EDT)
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Yes Trout gave a lot of good info. I also would wait until the dog is older to put some weight of substance into the back-pack, but it is good training to have some small water-bottles or something of even weight.

But here in Norway we let the dogs carry more weight. The rule here is that the dog may carry up to 1/2 its weight with lots of training, and that it can easily carry 1/3 with just a bit of training.

I now have my third dog, and I have never used socks or anything on the paws on any of my dogs. But I carry with me a complete set on longer hikes just in case. This does not weigh much, anyway. I also check the paws every day for wounds and wear.

6:20 p.m. on May 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi Otto,

I think you are correct on the weight that the dog can carry. I have suspected for some time now, that my dog is not carrying his fair share sometimes. HaHa

7:11 a.m. on May 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi curlyshirley,

Welcome. I am with the others, conditioning is the best approach. Dogs pads are not as tough as some think and when cut are very sensitive. It is similiar to us when we have a foot injury, we must be on that foot to move about in our daily lives and it can be very painful. I would suggest the booties for backup. If an injury occurs it will be much easier to keep the foot bandaged, clean and dry with a boot on. I would also suggest some analgesics (pain medication) in your pack, a doggie medical kit. Talk to your vet to find the appropiate medicine and dosage. What is safe for humans could kill an animal. I would carry pain medication, allergy medication, topical antibiotic oitment, muzzle(the nicest dog may bite when in pain), a splint of some sort and anti-diarrhea meds especially on long hauls. Most dogs will eat anything and our domestic pals stomachs are a little more sensitive than their wild relatives. On a short hike it is not much of a cerncern but a dehydrated dog because of diarrhea and vomiting on a long haul may be an extreme worry. Ask your vet about appropiate drugs for your dog, some breeds have sensitivities to certain drugs.

8:44 p.m. on May 31, 2009 (EDT)
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I agree with Wilderness Gal,

She emphasizes a very important point. Lots of good advise on the internet, but your vet knows your animal the best and their advise should be heeded.

7:42 p.m. on June 4, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to respond to my inquiry! Lots of good advise.

I've talked with some folks who operate dog pack hiking tours here in Canada and also in Alaska. They pretty much reiterated opinions here, but FYI here is what I learned:

They tend not to put booties on as long as the dog's feet are doing fine, because they will always have better traction without them.

Occassionally booties are used for ultra rugged terrain and then taken off.

All the outfitters I spoke with had booties on on hand for injuries to keep on dressings/bandages.

They suggest not to get the fancier types of booties that have some sort of sole on the bottom, because they won’t necessarily conform to dog's feet as well,thus affecting their balance. They suggested getting several sets that are made out of the thin tough material (sort of like trigger cloth) that is most common for sled dogs right now. They are extremely light, fairly tough, and will give dogs the best usage of their feet. If they wear through, it is really easy to pack extras because they are so light.

Here are some recommended sources for booties of this kind:


New Skin liquid bandage works wonderfully on broken pads.

Here is a cool natural home remedy I found in A Guide to Backpacking with your Dog by Charlene LaBelle (pg. 43) to toughen up a dog's foot pad:

Tannic acid solution: Place a tea bag in a small amount of water (1/8th to 1/4 cup). Allow tea to steep 3-5 minutes until very strong. After tea has cooled, soak each foot for 3 -5 min. This keeps pads tough for several days and can be appplied on the trail if necessary.

Suggestions for doggie first aid items:

Vet wrap, Canine anal thermometer, Hemostat (for pulling ticks and splinters) Neosporin or other antibiotic ointment

Benadryl 1-2mg per pound, every 8 hours (NEVER give Tylenol, as it is toxic to the liver, or ibuprofen - Nuprin, Motrin, Advil, etc. Ibuprofen is very toxic and fatal to dogs at low doses. Only aspirin is safe for dogs, and buffered aspirin or ascriptin is preferred to minimize stomach upset.) aspirin 5 mg per pound every 12 hours hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting: 1-3 tsp every 10 min until dog vomits Pepto Bismol 1 tsp per 5 pound per 6 hours Kaopectate 1 ml per 1 pound per 2 hours Imodium 1 mg per 15 pounds 1-2 times daily. (WARNING: Imodium can be toxic to some dogs - especially collies.) Mineral oil (as a laxative) 5-30 ml per day (do not use long-term).
Check with your vet to confirm dosages before using.

This was from an informative website found at:

Hope that was interesting.

Thanks again for all your help.

Happy trails.

7:45 p.m. on June 5, 2009 (EDT)
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3,956 forum posts found boots-n-all!

Thanks for the links, there is a lot of good info out there if you search around.

I have found Super Glue to be hard to beat for closing cut pads, but New Skin Liquid Bandage does work.

Also info to be prepared for dog / critter encounters and possible injuries has been helpful to me.

8:00 p.m. on June 5, 2009 (EDT)
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If a dog has dew claws, there can be major injury to the dog from booties - dogs have had to be put down over bootie abuse. I tried em and gave em away. On the dog I mean...

Here in Oregon the snow dogs get a waxy oily mixture rubbed into their paws and the hair around them. The snow doesn't stick to it, so the snow doesn't form ice balls between the toes. Some call it Mushers Mix or some such thing.

How far a dog can walk is largely detwermined by the terrain and surface. On dirt you may wear him out, but his feet won't bleed. On volcanic rock, Sierra granite, or roads, the surface is like walking on corse sandpaper or worse. Another reason for a large backpack, you can put your dog in it and carry her. You don't have to carry a dog far before you determine to never "do that again". Oh and altitude affects dogs the same as humans. Some humans get their butts kicked going from sealevel to 5,000 feet. Some dogs too probably. If you are hiking at altitude watch your dog closely

As far as carrying loads. They say a dog should not carry a load until its full grown or a year and a half. Then the dog, like human BPers has to get used to that load.

Your breed is considered an insurance liability. You should be extra careful to never let her off the leash while camping AND HIKING or she could die trying to protect you. I was hiking in the Sierras one day when I was charged by a huge German Shepard who should have been on a leash - was legally required to be on a leash in that area, but instead it was running freely ahead of its misstress. So the dog sees me and charges me head down, intent on doing some damage. About 15 feet out from me the dog realises that I am frozen still and aiming a huge gun at him. I spoke softly and the dog hung back about 10 feet growling until his little dippy misstress comes around the corner and calls him off. If he hadn't stopped, I would have killed him. I love dogs. The girl would have been really mad at me, there could have been an altercation if she was armed also. I wouldn't want to kill a dog protecting his people, and I wouldn't want to kill someone protecting their dog. Anyone who takes their dog for protection is risking their pets life.

Jim S Roxy says woof woof wag wag

9:21 a.m. on June 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi Jim S


I couldn't agree more, the Shepperd should have been on leash. An untrained, overprotective dog is a danger to society and a liability to the owner. I would have done the same thing you did.

I would go further and say the Sheppard should have been left at home and an attempt should be made to re-trained and socialize the dog much better. Even on leash a dog like that is still a danger.

The dog charging someone who is clearly not a threat shows poor discernment on the part of the dog, and a lack of dog training, knowledge, and consideration for others, on the part of the owner.

My dog will protect me, but he has the discernment to accept people freely as friends until such time as they demonstrate by physical actions that they intend to do harm such as: Aggressive forward leaning yelling in close proximity, or hands on aggression.

The dog will then force himself between the owner or other friend, and the assailant. This is partially inherent in the Akita breed & also how he (my dog) was trained, and that's all it takes. Any other time he is a perfect gentleman, not approaching people unless called and not messing with anything that is not his.

If anyone takes a dog hiking please train & socialize the dog for that activity and keep it on leash! It's the owners responsibility to do so.

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