These Feet Were Made for Walking!

Tails from the Trail- Adaptations-Paws

Whether we are running, walking, lounging, or hiking, we have a great pair of shoes to protect our feet and make us feel comfortable. There’s so much to choose from – sneakers, boots, flipflops, loafers, slippers, you name it, we have footwear for it. 

So what do our canine friends do to stay warm and protected? Sled dogs have several adaptations that allow them to survive in the coldest of weather. One is the tough skin covering their toe pads. That thick layer of skin not only helps in keeping warm but also helps to protect against the elements. Their toe pads also contain unique kinds of fats (saturated and unsaturated fats). These fats stay as a liquid in the colder temperatures, which, combined with the tough skin, prevents freezing and frostbite.

Not only do the paw pads help to keep paws warm and safe in the cold but check out those furry feet! The fur also helps to keep their paws warm. To help with keeping their paws safe, mushers use booties. Dog booties protect their paws from snow, ice, rocks, or dirt gathering in their toes. Getting a particle between their paw pads would feel to us like a stone in our shoe. In fact, according to Rule 16, Mandatory Items mushers must have “Eight booties for each dog in the sled or in use” along the trail.

Teachers speaking of booties, there are so many ways to incorporate the use of booties into your classroom. Looking for a great lesson, check out this design challenge lesson from Jen Reiter, 2014 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail.