I’m not a fan of booting dogs. It’s a pain in the butt and it takes time that I would rather spend hunting. You really can’t do it early on most dogs. If you try and boot them and then leave them in the dog box, you are going to end up with some chewed off boots. Best to boot them right before you run them.
I do carry dog boots with me everywhere I go. You never know when having boots will make the difference between a successful hunt and a completely ruined day.
I mainly use boots for Sand Spurs. Perhaps the most evil of plants, the sand spur’s only purpose in life is to crush a bird dog’s spirit. It’s a rare, rare dog that can hunt through the pain of sand spurs.
The thing about sand spurs that makes me carry dog boots is the unpredictable nature of when they will show up. It’s a combination of drought and soil disturbance. This means you might not have them on a piece of ground one year but they show up the next. I think this catches folks off guard. Best to have dog boots and not need them.
Another reason I carry boots is to prevent or to help a dog that blows out a pad. My experience has been that some dogs are worse about pad injuries early in the season than others from a genetic standpoint. Thin pads and lots of drive are a bad combination that can lead to a hunting dog on the injured list.
Pad toughness can be improved with off season running and the use of pad conditioners like Tuff Foot. It takes several weeks and you need to start slow and build up over time. If you have neglected to do this or you didn’t get enough of it done, boots can help.
I still run into issues with some dogs because I can’t replicate the ground conditions at home that we see out west. We just don’t have the sand and rocks. It can be rough the first few hunts.
For folks that travel places to hunt but don’t have a large number of dogs, I recommend booting your dog for the entire trip. Even if his feet are in good shape, using boots can extend his ability to hunt longer and over more days. This can make a difference in a successful hunting trip.