Hello folks, Terrie here at TLC.  I wanted to set some time aside and talk about the health of your dog’s feet.  It is a really important topic and there are a few things that people are not aware of that could make their dog’s lives a little bit easier.

I’d like to start by stating that I am of the opinion that a dog’s feet are “sacred territory.” 

Just like the head, tail and rear end….the feet need attention and they should be handled with gentleness and respect.  It really bothers me when I hear people say “I’m trying to get him used to having his feet touched, I play with his feet all the time, and he hates it.”

Well, the feet are not to be messed about with.  When was the last time someone “played” with your feet and you didn’t have a sudden reaction?  Just sayin’ folks, think about it for 10 seconds. So now that I have THAT cleared off my chest, lets get deeper into this, shall we.

Sensitivity in Your Dog’s Feet

There is a lot going on in a dog’s foot.  They have scent glands in the pads which is why you see them kick up the earth after they have gone to the washroom.  They are marking and leaving scent.

There are nerve endings, connective tissues, tiny bones, muscles and joints all in those feet.  Needless to say without getting into the anatomy of the foot, their function and health is an important one.

The pads of a dog is what picks up the messages and sends that message to their brain.  Which is why we always want to keep the pad area of the foot in good health and one part of that picture is to keep the hair cleared away in the pad area.  If a dog has hair covering his or her pads, they are not picking up a full message. The hair can create enough of a barrier for the actual pad to not be able to come into full contact with the area that they are walking on.

Senior Dogs

You will note this in senior dogs for sure.  If they are having a hard time navigating around the house on hardwood floors, ceramic tiles etc….hair in pads can play a part in those challenges.  Sometimes it is because they can’t feel 100% of what they are walking on, and that creates uncertainty. Other times it is because it’s just too darn slippery for them to get a firm grip with their toes.  Sometimes it can be a combination of both, or arthritis, or muscle and joint pain as well. Having their pads tended to generally allows for improvement and increased confidence. That and of course a nail cut while you are at it.  

Regulating Body Temperature

Keeping the pads clear of excess hair helps them regulate their body temperature.  When you are needing to cool down an overheated dog you are going to use a cool wet cloth on the head, groin area and the feet.  We help them not get overheated and maintain their body temperatures by making certain that there is not excess hair clogging up their systems in their feet.  

Breeds with Extra Hairy Feet

Dogs that have extra hairy feet, like Cocker Spaniels or any Spaniel or mix, FOR SURE.  The other little fellas have challenges as well, but I’d say that the Spaniels definitely have their challenges with this.  The hair in their feet is just crazy thick and as it grows it can get just wild in there. I am often dealing with impacted pads in these breeds.  Not to say that a small Yorkie and many more haven’t had a challenge or two over the years. I just want to alert dog owners to checking the feet regularly but feeling that “V” area in the bottom of the foot.

Slipper Feet on a Black Dog's Paw
Underside of the “Slipper Foot around a Dog’s Pad

What Happens to Hairy Feet

As the hair grows and they get dirty and or wet feet, things start getting tricky.  You have a wet foot, a dirty foot and hair clogging up the filter in there. If the hair starts to mat and it often does.  In very short order the dog has a solid clump of bacteria and just nasty evil things living in the crevice of the “V.” Every time they go outside and they get wet, it gets tighter and even more gross.  If it goes undetected and it typically does it starts to break down the skin of the foot and the pad begins to fall apart in chunks. It’s very uncomfortable, unhealthy and extremely unpleasant for it to be safely removed.

I’m convinced a lot of the issues that dogs have regarding having their feet worked on in the shop is due to this one.  When I see a dog that has an impacted pad, or all four of them are impacted, it’s a big struggle. It hurts to have me remove it and when I’m doing this to them every time they see me, and that happens more than I care to mention……they have trauma.  They fight, they scream, they bite, the buck, they rear, they spin and they of course have no idea that I am not trying to hurt them.

All of it could be avoided if their humans would just please for the love-of-all-things-sacred listen check their feet, often.  Come in more often. Have a bath and tidy up’s between full groomings. Call me and make an appointment for pads and nails only and then be on their way. There are a lot of options in this story, and whether they choose to keep them clean and trimmed back at home themselves.  Or they choose me to do it for them. The first step is the realization and the understanding that checking the pads of your dog’s feet should be at the very least a weekly thing.

Now that we are on a world wide lockdown and no grooming salons are open.  I am somewhat concerned that people will really run into problems in this area. 

What to do?

    1. Check your dog’s feet often, like we have already mentioned

    2. Keep them clean

    3. Keep them dry

    4. If they start to get “slippers” and the hair is covering the pads.  Think about lightly trimming it back

Trimming the hair back might scare the bejeebers out of most dog owners and I’ll be honest, it is somewhat nerve wracking to the newbie, and that is you.

So, get a helper. 

Try These Steps at Home with a Helper

    1. Find a small pair of scissors.  Don’t even bother with the big ole kitchen things.  

    2. Get them up on that flat raised level surface I’ve mentioned many times in the past.

    3.  Your helper holds.  One hand under the bum when doing the back end, the other hand gently holding at the chest or shoulder area.  Your holder is a support to the dog, remember generally speaking, less is more when dog handling.  

    4. Feel the hair between your fingers, give the hair a bit of a twist between your index finger and thumb.  This helps expose the actual pad and gives you a better visual.

    5. Gently snip some of the hair off.

    6. Repeat until you can see their little pads under all of that hair.

    7. Then move onto the other rear foot.

    8. Front feet are different.

    9. Holder would be of tremendous support if they just simply gently hold the face of the dog. And a little massage between the eyes with a finger goes MILES folks.

    10. You move more to the front side of your dog and lift the foot so that the top of their foot is in your hand and you can look down and see the bottom of the front foot.

    11. Repeat the same trimming techniques as you did with the back feet.

Are You Struggling?

If you find your dog struggling and getting upset.  If you find you are too tense yourself or your support human is lousy at the task.  Don’t feel worried, down or defeated. It’s all good. If you keep those feet as clean, and as dry as you can.  You won’t get such a big build up of dirt. Which will help the hair not get stuck in that “V” area in the pad. Which helps prevent the hair from getting impacted in there. 

I hope this helps you out during this very challenging time that we are all currently in.  Even if you find this long after we are out of our quarantines and the grooming salons have reopened.  This is great information for dog owners to learn about so that know they are doing a fantastic job of caring for and maintaining their dog’s grooming needs at home.

Demo: How To Care For The Pad’s On Your Dog’s Feet

Watch some of these techniques in action in our latest video on YouTube.  If you have any questions or comments please let us know. We are here to help you and provide support.

What are your grooming challenges? Drop me a comment below!

Big Love,