One of the most interesting pieces of winter dog gear that we’ve used are the Backcountry Paws dog gaiters. Does your dog need, but lose boots all winter long? This might be for you!
Dog gaiters might look like the weirdest dog contraption but they really are quite functional and solve a couple issues I’ve found no other answers to.
Dog booties can be necessary if your dog’s paws are too cold (say -15 degrees), or if your dog’s paws develop snowballs, or if your dog’s paws might need protection for other issues. Fast running energetic dogs lose dog booties all the time and these can be expensive! We tend to use dog booties for hikes less than 2 hours, especially if the trail is wide and easy to find missing booties.
But what do you do if you are sick and tired of losing dog boots? For those longer hikes, or when I don’t want to spend my time finding lost booties, I use these gaiters. Because the gaiters have boots attached, this makes it impossible to lose boots and voila your issue is fixed! Read on for the caveats!
The first time I tried Backcountry Paws gaiters, I was a bit intimidated by the straps but it was fairly straightforward and logical to put on. Whiskey is a really patient dog so she helped us both get used to the gaiters and find out together how to use them. My dogs are right between the sizing. Whiskey has a large size gaiter and Bourbon a Medium. I can fit either in either size but the medium is pretty tight on Whiskey and Bourbon swims in the Large.
The best uses of these gaiters are on packed trails or loose fresh snow no higher than the knee of the dog. They’re great for active crazy dogs that lose boots, and those that collect snowballs on their paws and lower legs. The gaiters are also good for windy days when you want the entire length of the dog’s legs to be covered. I’ve not found a long-legged bootie that my dogs actually accept and enjoy, that stays on for 4+ hours, outside of this solution.
How to put on:
First you need to separate the front and back of the gaiters. I noramlly start with the front legs (undo the buckles to help). Place the boots atop the dog so you know where the front and back of each leg is before you start. You want to avoid putting the boot on front to back (you cannot tell outside of the top straps) so first get your placement otherwise the boot will be twisted.
Once the front boots are on, you can place the back boots on and then buckle the back strap to the front section. Make sure the velcro on the boots is on very well because once you hit the snow and the velcro starts icing over, it’s much harder to redo well.
For short haired dogs, I really do suggest tights on underneath. If it’s cold enough to need gaiters, you’re most likely needing a jacket for a short-haired dog and tights will help prevent rubbing. For even colder weather I put a jacket on top of the tights and gaiters (see the photo below). This is a pretty good combo for very long cold days!
Try putting the contraption on at home first. Gaiters are not the easiest to put on a very excitable dog at the trailhead, in a dark car, without help. With that said, my girls are very patient with all kinds of clothing so I’ve actually not had issues myself, but Whiskey and Bourbon are not the type of dogs to bark or run around a car excitedly at a trailhead.
Lastly, take the time to really look and do up the straps around the ankles well. Make sure they’re firm and tight, that the paw is entirely the way inside, and that the least amount of strap is hanging loose.
Backcountry paws have released version 2 of their gaiters. The first flagship product was very well made. Whiskey still uses it without issues but it’s been really nice to see the improvements. There are less hotspots to rub on the dog with the new version (I normally have the dogs in k9topcoat tights underneath so it hasn’t been an issue for us). The second big improvement are the boots. The inside doesn’t have a seam to rub, and are looking much more comfortable. If your dog has issues with hotspots, get version 2!
There’s been a couple downsides I’ve found with dog gaiters. First, they take a longer time and a more patient dog to put on. You need to familiarize yourself with the system and you’ll have to adjust the straps for your dog the first time, so try to do this at home.
Second, the gaiters can fill up in deep snow. If you’re snowshoeing and the snow is higher than the knee of the dog, the dog can kick up powered snow into the gaiters and then the snow goes inside and collects. Or if your dog goes swimming in powder, the tops of the legs are not sealed (there is no sealing on any dog jacket). There’s no way for the snow to come out so you’ll have to make sure that your dog isn’t walking around with a bag of snow. I have this issue more with the back legs because of the shape, and sometimes I might take off the back legs but leave the front ones for this reason.
Third, the gaiter fit needs to be correct and I find that the paw size needs to match the leg size. For example, you buy the gaiters sized to the leg height, the bootie size may not fit perfectly (especially if your dog is shorter but has gigantic paws). So just check fit before you buy!
Have you tried these? Do you have comments? What was your experience like?