Every time I ask my fellow dog owners if they've heard about dog shoes, the response always reminds me of a fill-in-the-blank question on a quiz. It always starts with a "Yes, but..."
At first it was surprising to me to realize how many dog owners were aware of the existence of dog shoes, dog boots, dog booties, and/or dog sneakers. But it makes sense once you realize the sheer volume of dog shoe brands and retailers out there on the market:
So maybe it's not so surprising that most owners know that dog shoes exist. So why the "but?"
"...but my dog HATES wearing dog shoes"
By far one of the most common things I hear from dog owners is how much their dog hates wearing dog shoes. And who can blame your dog? Dogs have been our companions for ~16,000 years and it's only recently that we wisened up and realized the benefits of having them wear dog shoes.
But if we take a step back, let's ask the bigger question here: since when have our dogs ever liked ANY of the foreign objects that we put on them?
Can you remember the first time your dog put on a dog leash, dog collar or dog harness? Do you remember the groan you could see forming in their eyes as you put dog clothes on them for the first time? Or when you applied that nose cream, gave your dog their first bath, or introduced the nail clipper? It's rare to find a dog that likes the feeling of any of these things that feel so unnatural to them, let alone tolerate them. As humans obviously we understand the use of tools and appliances, but unfortunately we cannot communicate to our dogs the benefits they are getting out of the objects we introduce to them.
So why do our dogs begrudgingly accept that dog collar or dog harness over time? Why do they eventually stop giving you the "why are you doing this to me" look when you put that cute sweater on him or her during Christmas time?
Repetition and positive reinforcement
Here's the thing. Your dog might have hated his or her walkgear the first time you put it on, but hey, at the end of the day, all dogs have to walk. So day after day, you trained your pup to tolerate the tangible extension between man and dog known as the leash. And what did your dog eventually realize?
"Every time my (awesome) owner puts this leash and collar on me, GOOD. THINGS. HAPPEN. I GET TO WALK OUTSIDE!!! Woof."
And what did your dog think after you put that cute Christmas sweater on him or her?
"Oh wow, I don't know how I feel about this itchy sweater, but IT'S OKAY BECAUSE MY OWNER JUST GAVE ME MY FAVORITE TREAT!!! Woof."
See where we're going with this?
Your dog might hate wearing dog shoes or dog boots, but how did you introduce them to him or her?
Can you count with one hand the number of times you put dog shoes on them before you gave up?
Did you make it an unpleasant experience for them in the first place? Did you laugh when they put the shoes on? (PSA: Dogs can get anxiety when you laugh at them. See this excellent article from Pet Dog Owner, "5 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks When You Laugh")
If so, you might want to give dog shoes a try again. But this time, do it right.
Patience, patience, patience.
Like with any foreign object, build up your dog's tolerance to dog shoes slowly and patiently. Start with just a few minutes of wear each time and maybe put dog shoes only on the front paws at first, especially if your furry friend is a stubborn one. Use LOTS OF TREATS and give plenty of praise each time your dog accepts the shoe, just like you would when you put on their dog collar the first time or when they just learned how to go potty outside.
Once your dog is acclimated to wearing all four dog shoes in the house, start taking them outside the moment they put on the dog shoes. That way you are letting your dog associate the shoes with a positive cause and effect experience.
Let your dog know that when they put on the dog shoes, they get to go have fun! Instead of letting your dog think, "Oh no, I have to wear these darn things again," let them think, "Oh boy! After I put these on, I get to go outside!"
Go from your dog doing this when they see dog shoes...
...to this! YAY DOG SHOES!!!
What might sound simple in practice will take time and repetition. But before long, your dog will get used to those dog shoes and associate them the same way they look at a dog collar, dog harness, or leash: with an understanding that wearing these items makes both parties happy!
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