These Boots Were Made for…Pooches?

By Tyler Pollard
In the era of Paris Hilton, where we’ve seen every type of doggie-fashion from festive Santa suits to itsy-bitsy bathrobes, it’s easy to dismiss the notion of canine footwear as just another frivolous trend. It’s true, there are enough froufrou accessories out there to make any dog howl with embarrassment, but the benefits of using booties might be something to consider for certain owners. So how do you know if your pooch should be rocking the latest paw-wear? Well, unless you’re trying to one-up Tinkerbell in a four-legged fashion show, it’s all about making your pup comfortable by providing protection, and it’s fairly easy to tell when this is necessary.

Doggie-shoes are most useful in regions that experience extreme weather. For example, in the midst of a chilly Canadian winter, you will likely come across plenty of snow and ice as you take your daily strolls. Though the pads of a paw are made of a very thick durable skin, they can still be sensitive to such frigid conditions and are not immune to frostbite either. If you know your pup well, it’s not hard to tell when they’re feeling disgruntled. If they frequently stop and lift a paw in the air mid-walk, that’s a sure sign they are hurting. In this case you would want to go grab some polar-fleece booties pronto (and it’s a bonus if they have rubber-grip bottoms to save your pooch from sliding all over the place). For the city-dog, there’s an added benefit to the footwear. Salted walkways are another great enemy to the bare paw and can cause irritation or allergic reactions if not wiped clean after contact. This is all the more reason to bundle up with boots, one less tedious task for you, and a happier dog—nothing wrong with that!

Even if you live in an area unknown to snowflakes, there still may be some good reasons to think about covering up your dog’s tootsies. Just ask Rockie, a perky black Doberman Pinscher who belongs to Arizona Native, Savannah Crossen. These days the pair reside in Toronto where Crossen works as a stylist at a downtown salon. However, two summers ago Crossen returned to her hometown of Avondale Arizona for a couple months to reconnect with family.

By Tyler Pollard
“Rockie had never experienced the brutal temperatures of a dessert climate; he was totally thrown for a loop,” says Crossen. “Where we were staying, there really wasn’t much grass or shade at all so the plain heat was a lot for him to bear, especially with his shiny black coat. There were also the cactus thorns that would prick his poor little paws.”
After a few weeks of having to bribe Rockie out of the air-conditioned home each day for a bit of exercise, it was obvious that he wasn’t acclimatizing very well. Crossen noticed his paws becoming very rough and beginning to crack in some spots. Seeking a solution, she invested in a pair of Bark’n Boots and some petroleum jelly to sooth his aching paws.
Crossen reminisces on her pup’s initial reaction to the foreign foot-gear. “It was a truly hilarious sight,” laughs Crossen, and truth be told it often is with most first time canine booty wearers. In all seriousness though, the boots proved to be highly practical. Rockie soon adjusted to his new style, and seemed a lot more comfortable as he ventured out on longer and longer excursions. Crossen says she still makes use of them today during the frosty Toronto winters and on those wet mucky days, just to keep things clean. Now that’s versatility!
So they help in the heat and ward off the cold, they can prevent fungal infections from moisture, protect an injured paw, and they even keep your place dirt free. Clearly the concept of doggie booties has become much more than frills and fashion. Having said that, they do look pretty cute in their baby-like sizes and there are many different types. Just look at Muttluks, a Canadian brand, that blends style and practicality – the ultimate bargain these days.
A lot of the time, however, the majority of dogs can manage just fine without shoes. Unless their paws are being subjected to something harsh, it is probably best to let them go ‘au natural.’ Constant unnecessary covering runs the risk of preventing your dog’s nails from being filed down by the pavement, which can cause discomfort.
All in all, it really comes down to your judgment as an owner and the variety of elements you and your pet have to contend with throughout the course of a year. It is truly great to have such a wide selection of products out there to choose from, if indeed paw-wear is the way to go for you. However, for the sake of animal rights, I suggest steering clear of the high heels.
By Hayley Dawson


By David B. Sutton
It’s official. Yoga has gone to the dogs – quite literally! A new exercise trend stretching across North America, called doga (that’s right, yoga for dogs), is encouraging people to bring along their canine pals when they hit the studio for some downward dog relaxation. The practice is believed to have originated in Manhattan about 7 years ago, with the intent of nurturing the bond between dog and owner. As well, doga is meant to help keep bodies – human and furry alike – lean and limber, while maintaining positive mental energies.
Becky Solomon, group exercise director for the Lakeshore Athletic Club at the Illinois Center in Chicago, runs the ‘Paws and Flow’ class and says it is difficult to fully describe doggy-yoga. “A lot of it is about the experience,” she tries to explain. “It’s a combination of socialization and stretching for the dogs, as well as a lot of energy work and meditation for the people.”
‘Paws and Flow’ is as much a training session for the people as it is for the pups. “There’s a portion of class when you’re not allowed to command your dog to do anything, even if they’re barking their head off,” Solomon says laughingly. “It’s practice for the owners to control their reactive nature, so they can remain in a calm atmosphere during chaos.”
What else happens during a typical doga class? After a ten minute bouncy meet and greet where dogs are allowed to mingle with their classmates, soothing music oozes from a boom-box, everyone gathers in a circle on mats, and class begins with breathing exercises. Of course, dogs are not expected to perform all or any of the classic yoga moves, but instead enjoy a bit of massage and simple gentle stretches.
By David B. Sutton

“Dogs instinctively do ‘upward’ and ‘downward dog’ yoga positions when they wake up,” reveals Solomon. “So in class we try to encourage that natural behaviour, because it feels good for them and is good for them.” For the most part, however, dogs are used as props by owners during more intense yoga moves and are encouraged to lie by their masters’ side, or curl up in laps as class progresses. “Dogs can sense and feel your energy,” insists Solomon. “They take on the energy of the owner, so we focus on calm movements and breathing to get the dogs to chill out.” Thus, an opportunity for owner and pet to bond through some intimate one-on-one time is created.

As doga grows in popularity, however, so too does the voice of criticism, raising concerns about the hybrid activity being just another example of half-hearted multitasking in our fast paced digital age, and that it is single ‘paw-ed-ly’ reducing the ancient practice of yoga to just a new trendy craze.
“Sometimes it’s hard to fit everything in with a busy schedule,” admits Solomon. “But people love their pets and you still want to have that bonding time with your dog.” Combining yoga and time with your pooch is not so different then going for a walk or jog together, it’s just a quieter experience.
“At a dog park there are constantly people coming and going, so a dog is always on alert and doesn’t have a moment to relax,” Solomon says. Doga is all about achieving true relaxation and having a real uninterrupted connection with your dog. Some may say that the idea is similar to the notion of mothers toting along new babies to a yoga class, except there is a lot more fur involved. There is a little bit of yoga practiced, and a lot of holding what you love close.
“With pets it’s unconditional love they give,” says Solomon fondly. “In class I suggest thinking about how you are in your relationship with an animal and how to carry that feeling into your life, so you can have that affect on other people.” For Solomon and her two chihuahuas, Chloe and Cubbie, doga has become a way of life, a way to stay connected and a way to teach others about the importance of taking some time – a 45 minute class to be precise – to just breathe, stretch and cuddle.
Although presently unavailable in Canada, doga is becoming increasingly popular within the United States and expected to dig its claws into Canadian workouts in the very near future.

By Laura L. Benn