Wowzah! That's a whole lot of booties!! Why SO many? Well gather 'roun doggy friend--Let us tell you more about the mushing mantra, "a sled dog is only as good as their feet" and why it holds true to the sport of racing.
Training season starts around the 1st of September for most long-distance racing kennels. Mushers begin the slow process of training up their teams and conditioning them for 1,000-mile races like the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod that are held in the late months of the winter race season. By the time our team hits the start line of the Quest, our athletes have 3,000+ miles under their paws and they're rearing to go! Their metabolisms are high, their muscles are lean and their heads are strong. And their paws? Well, their paws should be in the best shape of the season and that is thanks two important things: Booties and foot care.
Shake dat bootie bootie!
Why booties? Booties, under the common misconception, aren't actually used to keep our four-legged paws warm. he are ctually sed to protect their feet from the miles of frozen terrain they cross, over abrasive cold snow that has sharp little crystal edges & from forming snowballs in inconvenient places on their feet. n fact since dogs perspire through their paws, we'll take them off if it's too "warm" (warm ~30 above). Keep in mind, Alaskan Huskies are a Northern Breed. But all and all, dogs feet are tough and they are selectively bred that way.
So why don't they get cold?
Well, if you take a look around at the other Canidae species (wolves, fox, coyotes, jackals, dingoes, etc.), you'll note that these guys don't stop to put booties on as they chase down their prey in the wild. And more importantly, the arctic versions of these species certainly don't stop to don their bunny boots! Their biological and physiological systems allow their feet to stay warm and hold up against the elements. But for us mushers (you know how we are), we like to take things one step further--Yep, we love to take preventative measures! Thus, the bootie was born. Many years ago, for that matter. They ere originally fabricated out of leathe, believe it or no! Now that's fancy. ut since dogs don't tie their own shoes and hey have a tendency to fall off ("kicking a boot") and leather isn't very cost efficient, dog bootie companies like ur very awesome sponsor @dogbooties.com craft our modern booties out of Cordura. They come in different weights depending on the time of year and he ushers preference and of course different fun colors! We choose neon green because they're flashy (bonus) and we can see a kicked boot on the trail more readily at night and reach down to scoop them up. After all, booties are money!
ypically you'll have a few kicked boots per run and each bootie will last anywhere from 50-100 miles before you have to cash them in for new ones. Thus, we go through roughly 1,500 booties per 1,000-mile race. During fall training, we re-use old booties that we've washed and re-examined for any holes. Once we start going over 30+ miles, we start "bootying" the team to prevent wear & tear on their pads. In one winter race season, we'll go through over 4,000 booties.
Check their PAWS!!
The second part of keeping our dogs' feet in tip-top-shape is checking them regularly for splits and cracks, both at the start of the run and at the end of a run. Splits happen in the webbing of a dogs foot. To check for these you must spread their toes apart to get a good visual of these furrows in the paw. A good indicator of an "unhappy" paw, is a red rusty tinge to their fur and skin. No, this isn't blood, just a sign of irritated red skin surrounding the source of discomfort. Their pads can also show signs of wear and rub. And sometimes, they get a jammed toenail. Most times we slather the splits with our paw ointment (JackPawt). When we're racing, every paw no matter the condition gets this treatment (another preventative measure!). ometimes we soak their feet with Epson salt if we get an inflamed pa to draw out any impuritie. ometimes we double booty with a fleece booty under a Cordura. ometimes they just need a couple days off to heal. A couple times a year, we'll shave the hair between their toes to make these abrasions more visible and more easily managed.
Beyond the topical, we also supplement for feet and some supplements in our kibble target paws specifically. And like we mentioned before, we breed for tough feet.
he Mushing Mantra: "Only as good as their feet"
So why all this trouble to keep a dog from getting splits and cracks, besides the fact that we want to take the best care of our dependants as possible? Well, a bad foot is said to be the first thing that can get to a dogs head and if your goal is to move in a forward momentum, you might want to check their feet. Slack tug line? Check their feet. Distracted? Check their feet. Weird gate? Hey! Check their feet. You get the drift.
Moral of the story: If we want them to go the miles, you better treat their feet like gold.
So, MANY THANKS to our wonderful sponsor @dogbooties.com for making our booties more affordable, for the quantity that we demand and our dogs deserve. Cheers to Happy Paws!
Would you like to sponsor booties for a specific leg of the race? Click the below link! Many thanks to all of your generous support!
Thank you for reading! As always, post your questions below and we'll add it to our list!