Dogs' frozen little paws

I think Cecil missed out a whole aspect to the dogs getting frostbitten feet thing. From my experience (and I grew up in the Yukon, where dogsledding is considered a perfectly legitimate and popular sport) frostbite is not a problem because before a dog gets frostbite, it will get balls of ice building up between its toes. These balls of ice are understandably uncomfortable (try walking around with ice cubes between your toes and see how you like it) and the dog tries to chew them out. Because dogs lack sensitivity on their feet anyway, and because their feet by this time are probably additionally numb with cold, they often miss when they’re chewing out the balls of ice and puncture the pads on their feet with their teeth. This makes them bleed and hurt, and if they’re on their own, they just curl up somewhere and lick their paws until they’re all better, or if they’re attached to a sled team, the musher usually notes the blood and pulls the dog. THIS is the reason why dog mushers put their dogs in booties (the material of choice is the same polar fleece that ski pullovers are made of) and quite a few people up north actually make a decent living selling fleecy little dog booties to mushers.

Anyway, that’s just my input. The answer I think Cecil was going for was “They are capable of getting frostbite, but other injuries usually occur first.”

That’s true enough in the context of a race, but the larger point I was trying to make is that dogs’ bodies in general, not just their feet, are well adapted to the cold.

As for why mushers put booties on their dogs, we don’t disagree. The booties protect/prevent paw blisters caused by snow and ice caught between the toes.


Wow! Quick reply from His Omniscience there! Thanks, Cecil.

<cringe> I feel a duty to point out, however, that adaptation to cold in not an inherently doggy trait. Or rather it is, but some breeds have passed beyond what should be termed “dogs”. I am thinking here of freakish occurrences such as chihuahuas, poodles, shi-tzus and the like. These, while still scientifically classed as dogs (I prefer to think of them as “mobile footballs”) have very little natural protection against the cold, and it is frequently amusing to see them hopping about with pained expressions on their little faces at 40 below. These creatures’ paws are about as tough as your average three-year-old human’s hands. Generally speaking, the further away from wolves (physically) a dog breed is, the less well adapted to cold it becomes. And I’ll bet good money that if you left a specimen of one of the aforementioned breeds out in cold weather, it would get frostbite. The only reason that there isn’t much literature on this is that the owners of said specimens smother the damn things more than they would a human child, therefore preventing any chance meeting of pet and the great outdoors. Kind of makes me ashamed to be human, really.

Anyway, Cecil, you’re right, real dogs are well adapted to cold, and human-made booties just add to the protection, but I bet they wouldn’t work on a poodle.

<Bring on the flames from poodle-lovers…>

Note to self: discontinue funding of “Project Poodle Booties”.

I think you are thinking about Minature Poodles. The Standard Poodle stands about two feet high at the shoulder and is hardly in the same category as the chihuahua, shi-tzu and the like.</P>
Not that anyone asked, but the reason for the “poodle cut” so associated with the breed is because of their original use as water dogs and retrievers. A poodle’s coat is so dense that when it jumped into the lake to retrieve the hunter’s kill its coat would become waterlogged. The hunters would shave the coat to avoid this problem but would leave the fur around the joints to protect them from the cold of the water.</P>

And, no, I don’t own poodles. German Shepherds actually…</P>

.sig file missing — (A)dlib, ®etry, (F)ail?

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Ok, point on Standard Poodles taken. But you do have to admit that the word “poodle” itself inspires more mirth than admiration. (Which is why, incidentally, the “Project Poodle Booties” had me laughing so hard I almost fell off my chair.)

Speaking of poodles and sled dogs, is that guy still trying to run the Iditerod with a team of full-sized poodles?

Surely the poodle team is an urban legend (or “contemporary myth” as I heard it called on the radio yesterday, just so rural types don’t feel left out). There’s no way a dog bred for swimming and retrieving could survive the Iditarod. Poodles’ fur, while thick, is also quite fine, and they don’t have the same dense undercoat/guard hair fur type of huskies and wolves. Moreover, I believe standard poodles have webbed feet, like most swimming dogs, which are not great for running on snow and ice. I’m sure they’re wonderful at what they were bred to do but making poodles run the Iditarod would be kind of like the Jamaican bobsled team, if the team were forced to bobsled in bare feet and shorts, and didn’t have a choice in the matter. The Iditarod “event” employs vets who I believe have veto power over mushers with regards to dogs’ fitness - if a dog doesn’t pass a health check it doesn’t run. I think a poodle would probably get pulled before the race started

Let me get this straight. I can’t use poodles to pull my sled, however, no one object if I harnessed Pierre and Fifi to my Kayak.

Assuming Pierre and Fifi are your poodles and not the maitre d’ and hostess from the restaurant you went to last night, no. Pierre and Fifi may look at you with sad, put-upon puppy-dog eyes, but chances are if you strapped them to your kayak in shallow enough water so they could stand, climbed in, then shot down a duck or two over the water, you’d get a nice little tow. This is assuming that Pierre and Fifi have actually been trained to retrieve game. If they have not, and, like all the other standard poodles I have come in contact with, specialize only in random, hyperactive and messy movement in water, you may want to attach outriggers to your kayak before attempting this.

Good luck, bon voyage, and don’t forget your PFD.

I’ve got nothing to do with them, but this column instantly put me in mind of Doggie-sox ™.


Actually, the guy who ran a team of full-size poodles is NOT a legend. It is true. His goal was to raise people’s esteem for poodles. However, I do not believe the team ever finshed the any of the longer races; the poodles always ran out of steam. To my knowledge, they are no longer running.

The guy with the sled poodles was featured in the front-page-center column in the Wall Street Journal several years ago. (Yes, the same column that brought you such classics as Hew Kennedy and his trebuchet). Apparently he put something-or-other on their coats to help hold the heat in.

May I assume that “something-or-other” is not lacy ribbon and berets? :wink:

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Well, of course it wasn’t ribbon. My god, man, have you no taste?
It was a nice little blond mink coat and matching beret, that’s what it was.

I can independently verify that the mushing poodles are not a UL. I lived in Alaska for some time. About 12 years ago, I was driving from Anchorage to Delta Junction and saw this man on a sled being pulled by a team of full-size poodles. It was certainly a head-turner! But the dogs certainly had no problem with the task - standard poodles are pretty big, strong dogs.


Respectfully, it’s hard to imagine dogs with frostbitten uvulas (or is it uvulae?). That is, assuming they carry them around in their throats, as humans do. I never looked closely, but I’m not even sure my dog has a uvula. Perhaps they get frostbitten vulvas (or vulvae?), which would fit nicely in
the list with nipples and prepuces.

—Uh HuhHuhHuh…
KenP said that vulvas fit in with nipples and prepuces.

—Yeah, HeHeHe
Ken’s cool.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Uvula? Where does it say uvula? Looks like vulva to me.

Eris recently (to me, anyway) made the observation that “dogs lack sensitivity on their feet.” Just to be a nit-prick, I’d note that that is only true of the pads on a dogs feet (i.e., the bottoms). Dogs are rather sensitive on the tops of their feet, and most do not like to be touched there.