Gear Review: Ruff Wear Bark’n Boots Grip Trex

We’ve had our eye on these boots for the past five years or so (even though it doesn’t seem like Trail Dog is old enough for that to be possible), but were never convinced in our old location that she needed them.

Cue a move to Wyoming. Trail Dog has had issues taking even short walks several times already this winter. We’ve already kept her in on one of our adventures (snowshoeing in early December) because it was just too cold, and we haven’t been on the trails as much because we felt it was too cold for her dainty paws. Tuesday morning we tried to walk Adventure Guy to work and her paw froze just as we were arriving – it’s about a 5 block walk. Wednesday morning I think she only made it 2 blocks. Now, she’s loved running and playing in snow in the past, and we have a suspicion that she has a bigger problem with cold pavement (or maybe something they’re putting on the road) than just with snow. In any event, walks like that were not going to get her through the winter and she was in serious need of some exercise.

Thankfully, the Ruff Wear Bark’n Boots Grip Trex boots we ordered her arrived yesterday. A few thoughts about the boot buying process, to start:

Adventure Guy works in a local outdoor retail shop that carries Ruff Wear, so we took Trail Dog into the shop one day to try them on. When we almost bought these boots a couple years ago, I think we were planning to buy a medium.  Trail Dog is a border collie – pointer mix and weighs 65-70 lbs, depending on the day and the vet’s scale. She is not small.  However, it was clear very quickly that though she may not be small, her feet apparently are. The small boots are a perfect fit. So my advice to you, dear reader, is to have your dog try them on! If that’s not possible, at least measure her feet – preferably both her front and back feet just in case they are different sizes. Ruff Wear provides instructions for doing this. Because Adventure Guy works for a Ruff Wear dealer, we were able to order the boots from the company at a discount.

We also ordered the Bark’n Boots liners. Ruff Wear says this is a good thing to do if the dog has a dew claw, and Trail Dog does. I’m not going to lie, these are a trip to put on. Fortunately Trail Dog is reasonably patient. I do feel like they probably protect her feet from any rubbing that might occur in the boots, though. These are sized a little differently than the boots. We wound up ordering an XS instead of a SM and they’re fine, but we are considering also ordering a pair in SM to see if they might be a little better, since she’s right at the edge of the sizing. However, I wonder if the SM would bunch up with extra fabric. If we do decide to size up I’ll come back and edit this.

Now, a few words on the reality of putting boots on your dog.

Trail Dog is 6 years old. She’s mellowing out. She’s always been good about letting us play with her feet (even though she won’t let us trim her nails) and is very good about letting us clean her feet every time we come in from nasty weather, so I was hopeful this might go reasonably well. But of course, there’s always the chance the dog could Freak Out. Trail Dog didn’t freak, but she did do the boot dance in the store (confession – I laughed my ass off  – it’s damn funny). However, after a few minutes of walking around she started to get it.

Yesterday with the addition of the liners, we decided the best thing to do was reward her as we put each boot on, so Adventure Guy put them on her and I fed treats periodically. She completely ignored what he was doing and kept her nose glued to my hand, waiting for the next treat to be released. Guess it helps to have a food motivated dog.

This time we headed out in the snow the instant the boots were on. Trail Dog loves to frolic in the snow so I took her right out to a fresh fluffy patch and frolic we did. Eventually Adventure Guy got his layers on and the house locked up, and the three of us set out for Trail Dog’s favorite city park. Within two blocks of the house – the same place her paw froze yesterday – the boot dance was done and she was walking normally. Two blocks more and she was flat out prancing. Tail and head held high, that was one happy dog. A much more pleasant walk than the previous several.

Taking Ruff Wear’s advice to make sure we do fun things with the boots on, we took her snowshoeing on day 2.

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Trail Dog modeling her Bark’n Boots and her Storm Chaser jacket – that one’s 3 years old.

It was a hit! We were in a hurry to hit the trails as we were running out of daylight, so I sat in the back seat of the car with her and put the boots on as we drove. In my haste, or poor balance, or whatever, one of the back boots wasn’t tight enough. About 5 minutes into our trek that boot spun on her foot. But, Adventure Guy was walking behind her and saw it. We stopped and re-tightened all the boots and didn’t have any more troubles from then on out.

We didn’t want to hike too long while she’s still breaking in the boots and as I mentioned, daylight was waning. Even so, she had a lot of energy, so Adventure Guy frolicked with her for a couple minutes before we got back in the car.  Go on and tell me this isn’t a happy dog:

IMG_0618

The boots are a hit! Definitely a good buy, we’ll be using these a lot more this winter, I’m sure.

Update – 12/21/12: When I originally wrote this post, details about how we got the boots were unintentionally vague. This post has now been edited to reflect the fact that Adventure Guy works for a Ruff Wear dealer and we purchased the boots from the company at a discount that is available to outdoor retail professionals.

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