These boots are a dream come true. I’m sure you are all familiar with the regular Bark n’ Boots, which are great for dogs walking on ice or abrasive surfaces. The problem with those boots were that they didn’t stay on well in deep snow, got packed with said deep snow, and didn’t provide any protection beyond that given to the dog’s paws.
Count on Ruffwear to address all that – this year they released the Polar Trex boot. It’s a winter boot with features galore, made to protect your K9 from the ravages of snow, ice, and ski edges. Ski edges?!? Yes, in case you haven’t clued in, they are sharp. My SAR group lost a great K9 prospect when her achilles tendon was severed by the edge of a cross country ski. Other risks of skiing with dogs include soft tissue injuries and stress caused by wallowing in heavy snow (you people who take dogs into the backcountry are not doing your K9s any favors – would YOU be able to run at ski speed through shoulder-deep snow?), avalanche risk, cold injuries, and just plain exhaustion. Some dogs do need to be around skis. Resort avalanche dogs come to mind, of course. Most other dogs don’t need to be anywhere near skis. But if there is one thing I know about dog owners is that they are really good at ignoring risks and potential dog injuries to justify bringing their dogs everywhere they go. So now dogs can enjoy a bit more protection thanks to Ruffwear.
It’s a long way off that soapbox, but I made it. Now I can tell you about the features of the Polar Trex. Like I mentioned,it’s tall – it extends a good long way up the dog’s leg. This helps the boot stay on and thanks to tough Cordura, protects the leg from ski cuts. I’d love to have seen Kevlar there, but I think that might take the price of the boots out of reach. The boots do not rely on velcro at all, which is great because it doesn’t work well in the snow. Instead, there is a flat-strap buckle with a cam closure at the top of the foot, and a drawstring cord closure on the very top. These closures allow almost infinite adjustments and a much better fit for the dog. Reflective trim, snow-specific tread pattern, and internal cuff add key fit and performance features.
Getting them on can be a bit of a process; you’ll need to have a well-behaved and patient dog to get it done. Like the original Bark n Boots, they are made for bigger dogs and you may need different sizes for the front and back paws. Geardog is 50 lbs and wears a small in front and an extra small in back – so if you’ve got one of those itty bitty purse dogs, you’re out of luck. Which is fine, because those dogs aren’t exactly winter climate dogs anyway; just leave them in the purse. The accompanying sock liners are longer than the last iteration, and they may help avoid irritation and pressure points if the dog needs to wear the boots for a long time. I usually only use boots when we’re standing around or when it’s really, really cold, so Geardog doesn’t have to wear them for long periods. They’re still a lifesaver during cold snaps and long trips – if you’ve ever seen a dog limping because of cold paws, you’ll know what I mean. All dogs get cold paws; that’s why Iditarod mushers use booties. Even then, you’ll see dogs limping along because of the contact with the cold ground. I’d wager that Iditarod mushers can’t really afford the hundreds of Polar Trex booties they’d need every year, so they use the easily replaceable felt ones, but I’d love to see these boots tested by a musher to see how they do over long, long miles. Lance Mackey? You listening?
I’m really happy with Ruffwear for taking a lot of customer feedback on the original boot design and coming out with an improved model. I really like these boots and Geardog is ready for some grand adventures in the snow, no matter how fall the mercury falls.