Our eldest Border Collie, Spanky, is about thirteen years old (I’m not sure if his exact age because he’s a rescue, but I know he is at least that old). He is having the same problem many old dogs suffer- weak rear quarters. This, combined with our wood floors, make it very difficult for him to get up from lying down. He lacks the muscle strength and coordination to get traction. Sometimes he collapses midway, sprawling out like a frog, and would need assistance to get back up. It’s sad to see once-spry dogs suffer these old-age maladies, and I’m sure it impacts their quality of life. So, we’ve gotten him some shoes to help!
At first, I tried some traction socks. I chose the Woodrow Wear brand, which was featured in the AKC Gazette magazine a while back. They had on-sale Halloween colored socks for $10. I think the design has merits, they remind me of the traction socks issued at hospitals. And I think they did help Spanky in getting up. But, there were some drawbacks of this design for us. For one, we have a dog door, and the socks are really more for indoor use, so they got dirty quick. They are washable, but they started to shrink in the dryer, and got harder and harder for me to put on his feet. And, they would slide off over time, requiring adjustment several times per day. (And a side note: honestly, these looked just like baby socks, and I bet baby socks with grip soles are cheaper and would work the same.)
So, I searched for something that would work better for us. I checked out all the local pet stores, but the shoes they carried were either nylon or leather/pleather- neither of which seemed to offer a more frictional surface than a dog’s pads normally would. We really needed rubber treads that grab.
Just in the last couple of weeks, Kirk ran into two other dogs in the same boat. At a client’s house, he saw a Cattle Dog wearing shoes for traction. And, our friend Kerry recently purchased some for his very cute and sweet Sheltie-cross, Lady Dog. Kerry is known to research a product thoroughly before purchase, so it’s not surprising that I think he found the best dog shoe brand out there. He reported that it took some practice for Lady Dog to learn to walk in them, but that they were really helping her.
So, Kirk kindly tracked down the shoes where Kerry found them at Mud Bay in Bothell. These are Ruffwear brand dog boots, and wow, they are really fancy! They were expensive- $59.95 plus tax. But, they are as well-made as any pair of Nikes for people, and you get four in a package, so this doesn’t seem unfair. They have a molded rubber Vibram brand sole with lug treads which is glued to a stitched (what looks like) leather and nylon mesh upper. The boot part is gusseted to give you a wide opening in which to insert the foot, and then they close with a long hook-and-loop closure strap.
So far, they really seem to stay on, after we figured out how tight to strap them, they haven’t fallen off. A couple of times, one has twisted until the tread is on top of his foot, but mostly they stay put. And I can see a difference in how easy it is for him to rise from lying down-those treads really work!
It also took Spanky a bit of practice to adjust to the shoes- they are kind of big on the feet, so I think the dog has to learn to account for them. He got stuck in the dog door once because the shoe got hung-up on the edge; and he stumbled from them a little at first, especially on stairs. He doesn’t have a lot of feeling in his back legs, so hasn’t objected to either the socks or shoes, I think because they’re not that noticeable to him. So far, we’ve only been putting them on his hind feet, as that’s where he seems to lose traction the most.
They make a funny sound when a dog walks in them, and because they’re only on two of his feet, it sounds like a person, or a toddler, walking around! I’m getting used to it, but at first I kept looking up, thinking Kirk had walked into the room! The shoes seem to keep his feet warmer than normal, which may be nice for him, I don’t know. It seems weird to me for a dog to wear shoes 24 hours a day, and I imagine his pads may get soft; but I guess there is no reason it shouldn’t be ok. When feeling inside the shoes with my fingers, I can detect a ridge down the middle of the sole, so that’s my only concern, whether that is uncomfortable or not. But, Spanky doesn’t spent a huge amount of time walking, fifteen minutes of yard strolling is about as much exercise as he prefers these days anyway.
We put the shoes on Maggie’s front feet, just for hilarious entertainment. She is the type of dog that 1) feels hurt that you are teasing and laughing at her and mopes and 2) thinks she’s completely paralyzed if she’s wearing any clothes. She has a neoprene swim vest to prevent hypothermia when she swims in the winter, and it took her some time to adjust to that too. With the shoes, she high-stepped and reared around in protest, then stood stock-still and sulked. But we got a game of ice cube fetching going, and then she was OK with the shoes after a few minutes. She learned that the grip treads really helpful in fetching on the wood floors-no sliding! In the picture, you can see she’s still mentally correcting for the fact that the shoes are wider than her feet, and is sitting with her legs all spread apart to make room for the footwear! 😀