Traction Footwear for Old Dogs

image 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!

Socks1At 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. Socks2 (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.

image 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! image

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.

image 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! 😀

13 thoughts on “Traction Footwear for Old Dogs

  1. darlena says:

    I have a sheltie and full grown collie. Both are over 10 years old. Both are having difficulty getting a grip on the hardwood floors to stand. As well, we live in a tropical climate and they constantly have problems with insects infesting their feet, and the heat off the pavement and the blades of grass which seem to iritate their paws. I have tried numerous types of shoes(at leasst five different brands).But I cannot find a proper size as their feet are very long and lean. Length wise they measure a size 8-10, but width wise they measure a size 3. Both also have very long toes which break thru the shoe. I have tried grip socks. I would appreciate any suggestions, comments and help.

    • workingcollies says:

      Darlena, I’m not sure; other than the socks, the shoes we’re using now (Ruffwear) are the only ones we’ve tried. Our dog has fairly slim feet, and our friend Kerry’s dog I think is a Sheltie cross, and her feet are very narrow like you describe (hare feet). The Ruffwear shoes seem to work ok for both dogs. They *are* wide, and it took both dogs some time to adjust to that fact, but they did.

      Long toenails might destroy any shoe though, I imagine, so it might be necessary to get them shorter to make a shoe work. I use a Dremmel tool to gring my dogs’ nails, and if I were trying to shorten then, I’d grind them every 2-3 days, to force the quick to recede so that you could get the nails shorter over time. I’ve heard of dog shoes that have holes where the toenails stick out, but I’ve not seen them. I think toenails actually contribute to slippage on wood floors, though, so getting them super short would probably be helpful.

      Also with Shelties and collies, they have such long hair in between their pads, I’m sure this also contributes to slipping; so I’d keep all that trimmed, to make sure their pads are making contact with the floor as much as possible.

      Good luck, I’d love to hear if you find a solution! This seems like a common problem, I’ve run ito a lot of people who are facing the same issue.

  2. darlena says:

    Thanks Michelle for your response. I will look into the ruffwear shoes. The trouble if the shoe is too wide is that the shoes starts to slip and rotate and after awhile the dogs are walking on the sides of the shoe instead of the soles. This damages the shoe as well as makes it uncomfortable for them to walk. I am very careful regarding keeping their paws in top shape. Their nails are trimmed and filed on a weekly basis and I keep the hair in between the pads trimmed. A while back I saw a video of a gentleman developing boots for dogs in Hungary. Interestingly these boots were made of a plastic rubber which was stretchable and therefore required no snap or tie. His dog was a full grown collie and the boots seemed to fit very well. I cannot find the video, nor can I find any info on whether he has developed the shoe and is selling them. I would definitely order them if I could get a hold of his site to order. Have you seen this video or have you heard of these shoes/boots? Thanks

    • workingcollies says:

      Darlena, I haven’t seen that product, it sounds interesting! I have since starting having a little trouble with the Ruffwear boots- causing blisters on my dog’s ankle, where the booth “cinches” with the Velcro. I didn’t seem to have this problem at first, and I suspect it’s dependent upon how tight or loose you make the boot, but it’s hard to tell what is the best “setting.” I think you’re right, the biggest issue is making sure the boots don’t slide around and cause a friction point, but not too tight such that it would be uncomfortable or impact circulation.

      For now I’m letting Spanky’s ankle sores heal, which takes a long time since he is old. Next I plan to try putting “vet wrap” on his ankles first, and then cinching the boots on top of that, to protect his skin from friction.

  3. Diane says:

    Be careful of anything that is non-breathable since fungus can occur. I had to remove non-breathable PAWZ. They are great but not for extended periods of time. I am going to look into the Ruffwear so that I am not having to put on and take off dog boots all the time.

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Diane, that is such a good point. I would say the Ruffwear are about the same as a human tennis shoe- breathable to an extent, but definitely bacteria and fungus could grow in there, especially if the shoes/feet get wet or the dog’s feet are sweating in there. My dog’s feet did get kind of a funny smell in them, not really to the extent of being a problem, but definitely a “stinky feet” kind of thing, so you could definitely tell that microbes of some sort were growing in there. I used a little human foot fungal powder to discourage that, and had him spend time with them off, and washed them in the washing machine a lot; so he seemed to do ok. But definitely something to monitor, thanks for pointing that out.

  4. Annalee says:

    I read with great interest your article! My biggest questions are:
    1). Do you still like them and if so how long have you used them?
    2). My mini schnauzer has very thin feet (like a rabbits front paws or mini pins, or other smal type dogs) you said the shows were wide and that is a concern.
    3). Have you found something that works better or heard of anything better.

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Annalee, I did like the shoes and used them for quite while, though the dog that needed them is now long since deceased. The shoes are pretty wide, but I was using them on a 55 lb dog, so I don’t know what the smaller sizes look like- I would assume they shape them for more petite feet. I never found anything better, I stopped when I found these, as they seemed to fit the bill.

  5. Boris Zilberman says:

    Dear Michelle,

    Seeing your comments posted under “veterinary” tag, I am assuming your are a vet. I am looking for traction footwear for my 11-yesr old poodle, and recently came across an interesting product, called paw-pads (the link is They say it’s vet tested and approved, but their no reviews on this product, so I was hoping to get your opinion on the subject.

    Thank you.

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Boris, I’m not sure, I’ve not tried a product like that, and don’t know of anyone who has. I could envision stick-on solutions might be challenging for dogs which are in dirt a lot, but might be great for more indoor-type dogs. The stick-ons also seem kind of expensive, given that they claim to only last 2-10 days (within a month, you might as well have paid for boots?). But I think anything is worth a try, I suppose different solutions would be appropriate for different dogs and situations. I am not a veterinarian, BTW, just an animal/pet owner like you!

  6. seryvolk says:

    Update on Dog’s traction footwear:

    Traction is a great problem for older dogs, especially in multilevel homes. I just got a call from my close friends – their oldest dog lost footing on the stairs (which are very high in their house, about 16 feet high) and fell almost all the way down. Vet could not save him…
    That’s one hell of a Thanksgiving Day for the family…

    I tried so far about 8 different types of dog’s shoes, with no luck: some were too cumbersome, others kept falling off, sock style footwear lasted 2-3 days, etc…

    However, socks were most comfortable for my 11-years old Standard Poodle to wear. So I decided to experiment with that style and came with a very decent solution (IMO):

    My wife purchased some toddler socks at “Dollar Tree” for $1.00 a pair, designed for age 18-24 month.
    I then pulled the socks over 2″ PVC pipe and sprayed them from toes up half way with GB Liquid Insulation (Home Depot electrical department, ” Gardner Bender Model # LTS-400 Spray Liquid Tape in Black (6 oz./Can)”, $7.47 each), rubbed coating in with piece of plastic to make sure it penetrates the cloth, and let them dry over nite.

    I put them on my poor Frank paws, wrapped top part with small piece of Velcro tape – and my dog never been happier with his “shoes”.

    And neither am I, since they are stronger than store socks, and much cheaper as well. Your should be able to make at least 4 pairs out of one insulation can, making the price for 4 socks only $3.87 or less!!!

    So far, they last longer than typical store-sold doggy socks. They are also breathe better than most dog “shoes”, and they can not turn wrong side up on the dog’s paw, since they are coated on all sides.

    If any of you going to try it too, please let me know how it works out for your dogs.

      • seryvolk says:

        Actually, I see this a temporary solution. My brother has a shoe repair shop, so I am going to get some leather from him and try to make easy-to-put-on leather booties, with some rubber solution applied to the bottom of the leather sock. He should be coming over in a couple of weeks, so I will try have him sew me a pair of dog socks than.

        If it works, I let you know all about it.

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