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You know your dog needs to be groomed regularly, but did you know that cleaning your dog's paws is an important part of their grooming routine?
When out for a walk or playing in the garden, your dog’s paws are exposed to rough surfaces, wet ground, dirt and debris. Those adorable little paw pads on your dog’s feet help to protect them from impact, extreme temperatures and uneven terrain, but it’s still important to keep your dog’s paws in tip-top condition. If paw cleaning isn't already part of your dog care regimen, here's how to get started.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dog's Paws?
Unlike bathing your dog, which the UK Kennel Club recommends you do every couple of months, there aren't specific guidelines for how often dog paw cleaning should occur. However, consider checking your dog's paws on a regular basis. Depending on their level of exercise and the season (harsh summers and winters can be tough on your pet's paws), you can adjust the schedule to fit your dog's needs. If you frequently take your dog hiking, for example, you may need to check and wash their paws after every walk. On the other hand, a dog who spends most of their time indoors and just goes on light neighbourhood walks might only need a cleaning when the weather is bad and their paws get dirty or wet.
Preparing for a Dog Paw Cleaning
Debris often gets stuck between the paw pads or in the toenails, so it's important to check your dog's paws before lathering them up.
Look for anything that doesn't belong on your dog's paw, such as thorns, foxtails and ticks, or minuscule broken pieces of glass, shells or other material. You'll also want to look for splinters or anything embedded into your dog's nails or paw pads. If you find anything, remove it carefully.
Next, if you have a medium- or long-haired dog, take a moment to trim the hair on the bottoms of their paws; this can prevent matting, keep dirt from sticking, and help your dog’s paws stay clean. The hair should be approximately as long as the pads.
Cleaning Your Dog's Feet
If you've bathed your dog before, you'll find it simple to do a dog paw cleaning. After checking your dog's paws and trimming their hair, wet their feet, lather with mild dog shampoo and rinse. Don't forget to keep a towel nearby to dry your pet's paws so they don't slip or leave wet footprints around your house.
If you want to do a routine dog paw cleaning after a quick walk, just gently wipe the paws with a washcloth and water. If you want to use wipes, Dogs Monthly magazine recommends only using wipes that are unscented and made with natural ingredients, with no alcohol or harsh cleaners. To be on the safe side, choose wipes that are made especially for dogs or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Don't forget to trim your dog's nails and dewclaws (the extra nails on the sides of their paws) if needed. Nails should end just before touching the ground and you shouldn’t be able to hear clicking when your dog walks. The Animal Trust warns that it can be challenging to cut a dog’s nails correctly, so if you're not comfortable doing this yourself, be sure to ask a professional groomer or your vet to do this at their next appointment.
Cleaning your dog's feet is just one small aspect of being a dog parent, but it's also a great opportunity to build your bond with your dog and remind them you'll always be there to take care of them.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA