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Bootless Boots for Your Canine


I get a lot of emails and comments asking me what I use to protect Summit and Gretel’s feet on our snowshoeing and hiking adventures.

At first, I didn’t use anything.

Note: this article was originally published in January of 2012.

Disclosure: I am part of the Amazon Associate program and the links below are affiliate links. As an affiliate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

When I adopted Gretel, I took her to obedience school to improve her confidence.

I was talking to the trainer about all of the hiking we do and mentioned that I had tried boots in the past but they didn’t work.

She suggested a product called Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax. It is a salve made in Canada to protect the feet of sled dogs.

Sled dogs don't always wear boots
Photo Credit: Depositphotos/Milous

The trainer raved about it and, taking her word for it, I immediately ordered some to try.

Is Musher’s Secret Safe For Dogs?

When I opened it, I thought it smelled lightly of petroleum.

This was a little concerning to me because I don’t like to use chemicals on the dogs if I can help it.

So I took a closer look at the label.

Despite the smell, Musher’s Secret is made of all-natural ingredients and is safe for dogs.

The description says that the paste is “safe, natural [and] made from a blend of several food-grade waxes” and a “safe, non-toxic way to protect your dog’s paws” without using dog booties.

As a bonus, all Musher’s Secret paw waxes are cruelty free!

What Does Musher’s Secret Protect My Dog’s Paws From?

According to the Musher’s Secret website:

It is described as “a dense, barrier wax that forms a breathable bond with your dog’s paws. 

Developed in Canada for use with sledding dogs, it provides tenacious protection even in the most extreme conditions.”

The extreme conditions that it claims to protect your dog’s pads from are:

  • Hot pavement
  • Rough terrain
  • Salt and chemicals
  • Ice build-up
  • Sand and sand burn
  • Snowballing

How Do You Put Musher’s Secret on Dog Paws?

Putting it on their feet proved to be a challenge at first.

After a few failed attempts to completely cover their pads or not get it all over myself, I found a system that worked.

I turn Summit and Gretel over on their backs, grab a paw, scoop a grape-sized blob out of the container and then rub it onto their foot (one blob per foot), being sure to work it in between the pads and onto the tips of the nails.

Summit and Gretel don’t seem to mind all of this too much. They liked getting a mini foot massage and my undivided attention for a few minutes.

I don’t think they are super excited about having smelly stuff (the smell does go away shortly) on their paws because they do tend to lick their feet a little after.

The product says it is non-toxic though so that doesn’t worry me.

Of note is that, since it is designed to absorb quickly into the pads, it is not supposed to stain.

However, I bet if you put too much on and a glob might get on something.

Also, even though it is non toxic, I wouldn’t want Summit and Gretel eating a big blob.

My advice is to put the paw balm on sparingly – only enough to thoroughly coat the area – and add more later if you need.

One application is supposed to last about a week so you don’t go through it fast.

How Often Do You Apply Musher’s Secret?

You may be wondering how often you need to apply Musher’s Secret.

It depends on your dog, activity level, and the terrain your dog is walking on.

You may need to experiment to find the optimal application interval for your dog.

Under normal conditions, the paw balm with wear off in about a week.

However, if you are walking your dog on rough surfaces, on snow, or several times a week, it may break down faster so you could need to apply it more often.

Miniature Dachshund standing comfortable in the snow with Musher's Secret Paw Balm on her feet

Musher’s Secret recommends applying their paw balm 2-3 times a week in that case.

Don’t apply it too often though!

There is a danger, if it’s applied too often, or your dog’s paw pads are already soft, that the skin could get too soft and make them vulnerable to sharp objects and irritants.

According to the Musher’s Secret FAQ page though, “If applied correctly, 2-3 times per week it should not soften the pads too much.”

They suggest cutting application back to once a week if you notice your dog’s paw pads getting too soft.

Where Can I Buy Musher’s Secret?

I first tried to buy Musher’s Secret at a pet store in 2011. It proved near impossible to find it in pet stores in Seattle.

According to the Musher’s Secret dealer listing, the closest place to me that sold it was 15 miles away so I ordered it online.

Since then, I’ve seen it in a lot of pet stores around the country. However, I’ve only seen it in specialty boutique-type pet stores.

If you don’t have a pet specialty store by you, or they don’t carry it, the easiest thing to do is order it online.

Does it Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Balm Work?

Yes, I do notice a difference when Summit and Gretel have the paw balm on their feet.

It’s not a mind-blowing difference but it matters.

For example, Summit and Gretel almost never have issues with their feet in the snow unless the air temperature is below 20-25 degrees Fahrenheit.

But when it’s below that temperature, and we don’t use any paw balm, snow and ice may start sticking to their paws and cause discomfort.

When this happens, I know it because they immediately stop and lift up one of their feet.

They rarely stop and lift a paw up in the air when I’ve applied Musher’s Secret Paw Balm to their feet, no matter what the temperature is.

According to the testimonials on the Musher’s Secret website, it has worked miracles for some dogs.

Also, Martha Stewart mentioned it in her winter pet tips article and it generally gets a 4-5 star review on Amazon.

Since my Dachshunds don’t wear boots in the snow (you can read why here), Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Balm is a crucial adventure supply for us.

Musher's Secret is a safe and nontoxic way to protect your dog's paws from snow and salt without using dog boots.

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