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Labradors are happy, hardy dogs who love being outside in winter. Their thick coats keep them more or less protected from the cold, and they love playing in the snow! But their paws are a different story.
Labradors need snow boots in the winter because the snow sticks to the crevices of their paws, causing discomfort, especially if the snow turns to ice. Additionally, salt or chemicals used to make the snow melt can get stuck to their paw pads, causing nausea if licked up.
In this article I’ll explore why Labradors need snow boots in the cold, what kind of snow boots they need, and how to train your Labrador to wear them. And if your Labrador can’t be trained, don’t worry, because this article will also list a few alternatives to snow boots.
Reasons Labradors Need Snow Boots in the Winter
Labradors have a thick double coat of fur and were bred to be hunting dogs that helped with fishing and fowl hunting. Their fur keeps them warm, but more importantly, it also keeps them dry. They are well adapted to the cold and can handle temperatures as low as 20˚F (-6.7˚C) without too much trouble.
But while the rest of their bodies are well protected under a thick coat of fur, their paws are not. Paws are the first areas to show signs of cold damage in dogs. Here are a few reasons why Labradors need snow boots to protect their paws in the winter.
Ice Formation Between the Paw Pads
The long fur present in the crevices of their paw pads can trap melting snow. This can turn into ice balls and cause serious frostbite, especially if the temperatures fluctuate rapidly. Wearing snow boots keeps the paw pads free of snow and ice.
Slipping and Falling
Thick snow might be fun for your energetic Labrador to play in, but this isn’t the case with ice. In the winter, you might find ice build-up in your front porch and sidewalks, or encounter frozen water bodies like lakes or ponds.
Ice can not only hurt the paws, it can cause your dog to slip and hurt themselves. Snow boots help by offering traction and allowing your dog to move easily over frozen surfaces.
Nausea and Poisoning
Road grit, salt, deicers and antifreeze – these are all staples of winter that will irritate the paw pads. Your Labradors may walk on them and end up consuming them when they lick their paws to soothe the irritation.
Antifreeze is notoriously poisonous, and will hurt your dogs. Road grit and salt can also cause damage if ingested in sufficiently large quantities. The simplest way to avoid this is to make sure none of this gets on your dogs’ paws in the first place by having them wear snow boots on their walk.
How To Choose Snow Boots for Your Labrador
When looking for snow boots for your Labrador, consider whether your dog has any specific needs that might lead you to prioritize some features over others.
For instance, older dogs and puppies need warmer boots with added traction. If your dog has allergies, you need to pay special attention to the materials used to make the boots.
Here are a few general features to consider when choosing snow boots for your Labrador.
Just like people, dogs need to wear boots that are the right size for their feet. Pick the boots based on manufacturer recommendations for Labradors, and reviews from other people.
When you put the boots on your dog’s feet, watch out for any signs of lameness or discomfort. If the boots are pinching, your dog will refuse to wear them despite training and will associate snow boots with pain. If the boots are too loose, they might slip off or let snow in despite your best efforts.
Ensure that the fabric is breathable and will not trap odors or sweat to ensure that your Labrador is as comfortable as possible in the boots.
Ease of Use
Snow boots need to be easy to slip on and off, but sit snugly on your dog’s feet. They definitely shouldn’t slip off while your dog is running around, because they will do more harm than good.
Make sure that the shoes are light enough for your dogs to be able to wear without feeling bogged down by the new sensation.
Good quality fastenings will keep the shoes on. If the fastening is velcro, you’ll be able to put them on and off easily and quickly. But velcro might be uncomfortable for your dogs so be careful and pick a pair of boots that suit your Labrador’s needs.
The snow boots should be made out of waterproof material to make sure that your Labrador doesn’t catch a chill. They should be durable enough to allow your dog to run around and play, and offer traction even when he’s moving at top speeds.
Look out for flexible soles because they make it easier for Labradors to walk in their snow boots.
There are plenty of options available on Amazon that are pretty inexpensive. The QUMY Waterproof Dog Boots are under $30 with free one day shipping for Prime members.
Training Your Labrador To Wear Snow Boots
Labradors are intelligent and loving dogs that will do just about anything for their humans. You can help your dog deal with the discomfort and new sensation of the shoes by introducing them slowly and training your dog with love and treats!
Introduce the Boots
The first thing to do is to let your Labrador get used to his new snow boots. Let your dog smell them, investigate them and nose around to his heart’s content before you try putting them on him. For especially nervous dogs, it is a good idea to introduce the boots one at a time.
Try the Boots On and Observe
Don’t force them, but if your Labrador allows it, put the snow boots on. Let him get used to the sensation of boots on his feet, and walk around if he wants.
Keep an eye out for any discomfort while your Labrador gets his newly covered feet under him. He might be a little wobbly, but should get used to walking in the boots straight away.
Trial Walks and Play
If you have the space, get your Labrador to move around in your home or your backyard in his boots. This will help both of you get a hang of going on walks with the snow boots on, and let your dog associate the boots with an activity that he finds fun.
In all these steps, offer your dog treats and praise and don’t force the action. Be firm, but gentle, and your Labrador should get used to wearing his snow boots in no time.
What to Do if Your Labrador Won’t Wear His Boots
All Labradors are individuals with their own personalities and quirks. For whatever reason, you might find that your Labrador absolutely refuses to wear his snow boots.
While snow boots help a great deal, there are some alternatives that will help you keep your dog safe.
You can use products like vaseline, oil-based or wax-based products that can be used as a protective barrier on the paw pads. PawTection Dog Paw Balm is an organic product that protects for both hot and cold surfaces.
Make sure to wipe off your dog’s paws after you come back inside to get at any deicer residue that may be on the paws.
Since the long fur between the paw pads traps the snow, it might also be a good idea to keep this fur trimmed if your Labrador refuses to wear snow boots.
Snow boots are essential in helping your Labrador stay safe when walking and playing in the winter. When training your dog to wear snow boots, remember to go slowly and give your dog all the treats and love he deserves!
If he still won’t wear boots, try other protective products on the paw pads, keep them clean, and keep the fur trimmed. You and your Labrador are now all set for winter!