My dog and I are definitely cut from the same cloth. She likes to play, and she likes to play hard. If left to her own devices, she’ll run till she’s foamy-mouthed and heaving, barely able to walk. She plays so hard that when we board her at her favorite kennel, where she gets to run amok and rip and snort with a huge pack all day, she comes home and has to sleep it off and tiptoe around gingerly for a few days.
Is it any wonder I love that dog?
Since I have so much trouble with my own feet, I recently bought Sillah her own hiking boots. Ruff Wear advertises their new Grip Trex series as being all-terrain, all weather, and so far, I have to agree. They’re built of a breathable mesh upper and have a grippy Vibram sole that rivals the treads on my own boots. She’s able to barrel through streams in true waterdog style and rock hop back up the bank like nobody’s business. We can hike farther now together, and I no longer have to worry about her picking up shards of glass or thorns between her pads. I can slip them on her whenever we're in the city in a sea of hot pavement, or whenever we visit someone with shiny, easily scratchable hardwood floors. And though we haven't tried out their cold-weather functionality yet, I can see where they're going to make next winter much more pleasant for her.
The first time I put them on her, she did a little get-these-flippin’-things-offa-me dance and tried to remove them herself with her mouth, until I distracted her with a game of fetch with her favorite plushy. But these days, when she sees me break them out of the gear closet, she just does a happy-dance because she knows she’s going with me somewhere cool.
I would not recommend having your dog wear them on the trail right away; take them to the dog park and let them run around for a few days first to see if they’re going to be prone to developing any chafing or hotspots.
Like any new human footwear, they require a break-in period, and you should be careful to buy the correct size to ensure a proper fit. (They have detailed instructions and a sizing chart on their website, but I opted to take my dog to my local outfitter and try them on.)
The boots are held in place with cinch-style Velcro straps, which allows for a great fit, but also can lead to chafing around the ‘ankle’. To combat this issue, the good folks at Ruff Wear have designed liners which reduce the chafing issue around the ankle and also help cushion your dog’s nails so they don't press up against the toe of the boot. (Anyone who’s ever had a black toenail knows how painful that can be!) I highly recommend purchasing the optional liners, and I highly recommend keeping your dog’s nails closely trimmed (whether you ‘boot’ them or not) and also that you stop every little while on the trail and make sure no debris has found its way into the boots. Your dog will thank you!
I do like that the boots and liners are machine washable, and I really like that after a day on a muddy trail, I can slip them off – ta daaa! – before allowing my dog into my vehicle, thereby greatly reducing the amount of mud that makes its way onto my upholstery. I also like that you can purchase replacement boots in singles! (I know a kayaker or two that might wish some human shoe companies would adopt the same policy, hehe.)
It remains to be seen as to how durable those mesh uppers are going to be (I have my doubts) but so far, with the moderate mileage Sillah and I’ve logged, we’re both pretty happy with them.