These Pooch Boots Are Made for Walking

Blessed, 7, a Jack Russell Terrier, pulls on the leash his owner Steve Aldridge holds on the Upper West Side on Jan. 25, 2014. Salt to melt snow is bad for dogs, but boots can keep their paws dry. (Niina Heikkinen/NY City Lens)

Blessed, 7, a Jack Russell Terrier, pulls on the leash his owner Steve Aldridge holds on the Upper West Side on Jan. 25, 2014. Salt to melt snow is bad for dogs, but boots can keep their paws dry. (Niina Heikkinen/NY City Lens)

With more snow likely for New York City, many dog owners are worried not just about how their pets will handle the cold, but how their paws will handle the rock salt and calcium chloride that are spread to melt ice on the city’s streets and sidewalks.

So dog owners like Nick Kouts, 41, of the Upper West Side are using dog boots to protect their pets’ paws. Kouts prefers Pawz Dog Boots. They look like un-inflated balloons, he said, and are made of natural rubber that allow the dog to feel the ground as they walk. Pawz don’t slip off the dogs’ paws easily, he pointed out, although he concedes that the elastic around the top can make it challenging to get the boots on and off.

A dog may be experiencing distress from exposure to salt or other melting agents if the pads of their feet look red, or if they seem to be sore to the touch. “Dog owners that don’t have boots are asking for trouble,” said Kouts. “It’s not a pleasant thing to see the dogs constantly lick their feet because of the salt.”

Getting three Cocker Spaniels ready for a walk in January in New York City isn’t easy. Kouts wrangles his pets into harnesses and fleece-lined vests to protect against the cold. Then he spends about four minutes slipping Pawz dog boots on Buzzy, 8, who has sore paws. “They are like my children,” he said.

Pawz sales have been going up each year in New York, according to Andrew Akers, co-owner of Pawz, which is based in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Akers said Pawz sells its products in 22 countries and in 7,000 locations worldwide.

Kat Barry, who has worked at Pet Market on Broadway and 109th Street for five years, said that in the past few weeks all five Pet Market locations had sold out of most sizes of the boots. Only the tiniest and largest sizes of Pawz remain, Barry said, pointing to a small stack by the register.

A box of a dozen of the disposable boots ranges in cost from $14 to just under $20.

Not everyone sees the boots as necessary, however. “We anthropomorphize quite a bit,” said Brian Laycock, a licensed veterinary technician at Gotham Veterinary Center in Manhattan. “There are many circumstances where pets could be comfortable without them.”

He recommends washing dogs paws after walks and checking between toes for signs of irritation—like frequent licking or chewing at their paws. Salves and waxes help dogs’ paws too.

Dog owner Alison Ehrmann, 42, holds up the salve she uses on her mutt on the Upper West Side on Jan. 25, 2014. (Niina Heikkinen/NY City Lens)

Dog owner Alison Ehrmann, 42, holds up the salve she uses on her mutt on the Upper West Side on Jan. 25, 2014. (Niina Heikkinen/NY City Lens)

Another dog owner, Alison Ehrmann, 42, puts Musher’s Secret Paw Wax on her dog, Charlie. Every time she tried to put boots on the 4-year-old mutt in the past, she said, he shook them off right away. So instead, she spreads the wax liberally on the dog’s pads before every winter walk.

“If he gets too much salt on him, he lifts up his paw and holds it up,” she said. She’ll quickly wipe off his paws in the snow and apply more of the wax, which costs between $13 to $16 for a 60-ounce container.

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