Training Your Dog to Wear Shoes & Boots: Pro Tips

If your dog's just tried on their new booties for the first time and looking miserable, read this.

Published December 18, 2023
Dog trying to get used to his winter clothes

So you're all set with your dog's shoes or booties, prepared to face the weather outside. You've managed to find the perfect dog bootie size, and they'll definitely keep your dog's feet protected. But here's the problem: Your dog is refusing to wear them and looks absolutely miserable. Luckily, there are some things you can do to talk them into it. 

Dogs Usually Don't Like Shoes the First Time

Dogs are not used to having their paws covered, so the new sensation of boots can feel quite strange to them. As a result, your dog might walk in an awkward, exaggerated manner, lift their paws higher than usual, or even attempt a little dance to shake off the boots. It's not uncommon for dogs to be a bit dramatic during this process, using different techniques to try to get the booties off. But don't despair; most dogs can learn to wear boots happily with a little practice and persuasion.

Getting Your Dog Used to Wearing Shoes

man putting boots on dogs paw in winter day

It's not exactly a habit for your dog to wander into the mud room and throw on some boots before going outside. Most dogs will need a little encouragement to get used to something being on their paws. It's usually not an easy feat, but it's well worth it to keep them protected.

1. Make Paw-Touching Normal

As a canine behaviorist, I usually tell my clients to get their dog used to their paws being touched before anything else happens. It's not uncommon for dogs to be a bit uneasy about their feet being touched. If they are, they're likely to be less than thrilled about wearing booties.

The training process should start with something as simple as gently petting your dog's paws during relaxed moments. Gradually, you can move on to lightly holding and manipulating their paws, making sure to reward them for staying calm and cooperative. The daily routine of handling their feet for a few minutes helps build their tolerance and trust.

Need to Know

Some dogs will adjust quickly to their paws being touched, whereas others may take a few weeks of daily paw work.

2. Introduce the Booties

Before putting them on, just set the booties out. Let your dog sniff and explore the booties at their own pace before attempting to put them on. You can also put the booties next to their bed or food dish and give them a treat while holding them in your hands. This may help them associate the booties with something good.

3. Try The Boots or Shoes On Your Dog

Now that your dog is all set with paw-touching and introductions, you can carefully put the booties on their paws. But wait! It's not time to go outside yet. Even though your pup has made awesome progress, they're still in the trial phase. Let your dog wander around the house to see what they think of their new accessory. Some dogs won't mind them at this point, whereas others will absolutely despise them and try to get them off ASAP.

If your dog hates them, continue this process each day until they're comfortable with it. Keep up with this daily indoor bootie-wearing routine, gradually increasing the time they spend in them. Remember, patience is your best friend during this process. If your dog is okay with them for 10 seconds, it's okay. 10 seconds is better than zero. Each dog has their own pace, and it's essential to respect that.

Quick Tip

Remember to give your dog tasty treats when using positive reinforcement to help them get used to wearing booties.

4. Stay Consistent & Keep It Fun

Now that your dog's wearing booties or shoes make it fun! keep up with good treats, and don't scold your dog while wearing them. If you need, provide positive distractions, like a toy or food reward to help your dog get used to the sensation. Before you know it, you'll be roaming around town!

Dog Shoe & Booties Alternatives

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If your dog absolutely refuses to wear boots or shoes and you know the fit is correct, you can try out some bootie alternatives. They're not as protective as booties but can help keep their pads safe. Just make sure to regularly clean your dog's feet and check for things like raw, burned, or cracked paw pads.

Doggy Socks

Doggy socks are an alternative option you can try if they don't want the booties. They can provide traction and are good against snow, ice, and salt. They'll also keep your dog's feet clean when you have to walk your pet in the rain or on muddy ground. These boots can also be used to protect your dog's foot after surgery or to protect a foot that has been injured. They come in three sizes and are available directly from the manufacturer.

Try Out Paw Wax

If your dog absolutely refuses to wear dog booties, you should still try your best to protect their paws. Paw wax could be a good alternative to booties or socks. It forms a protective barrier that helps keep your dog's paws safe from ice and cold.

Paw wax is safe because it's usually made with non-toxic ingredients, so it's okay if your dog licks it off. Using paw wax is a comfortable way to keep your dog's paws safe without the hassle of making them wear booties or socks. This way, your dog can still enjoy walks in the cold without discomfort or harm to their paws.

Need to Know

Paw wax may not offer the same level of protection as booties, potentially leaving your dog's paws more vulnerable to damage. It also will not protect against hot pavement.

Keep Your Dog's Paws Protected

Your dog's paws don't need to be protected every second of every day. They're naturally designed to handle a variety of terrain and conditions. The key here is to use your best judgment based on the environment and the activity. On a regular walk in the park on a mild day, they'll probably be just fine without any protection. But on a hot day, over rough terrain, or during the winter when the ground is cold and salty, booties, shoes, or another form of paw protection can help your dog stay comfortable and safe.

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Training Your Dog to Wear Shoes & Boots: Pro Tips