Hi folks, Terrie from TLC Dog Grooming here to lend a hand and share some tips for you and your dog this winter.
I live in Ontario, Canada and our winters can get mighty bitter and cold. Dog owners are often pretty twisted up on how to win the battle with the ice, snow and salt that is EVERYWHERE all winter long. They are worried about the health, care and maintenance of their dog’s feet and they often feel afraid to venture out and have fun.
Snow and Your Dogs Paws
When they go for walks or hikes, the dog will often stop every few feet and lift his paw. Sometimes he’ll lay down and refuse to move forward. Often times pet parents end up carrying their dog back home or to the car.
The main reason is that their feet will get snow and ice balled up in the hair between the toes and or underneath in the pads. That hurts or makes the dog uncomfortable and typically all fun and exercise comes to an abrupt halt. Or the dog owner stops every few feet and cleans the snow and ice out and away they go again. But that tactic generally only works for a few minutes before the poor pooch is jammed up again.
Trim the Foot Hair
I suggest that pet parents consider having the hair from the pads trimmed back or removed. Dogs like Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Shelties, Bouviers or Newfoundland dogs. Any of the breeds that have hairy feet on the top and the underside are plagued with this.
Trimming the Slipper Feet
By having a groomer trim the hair on the top of the foot. I call it “removing the slipper feet.” Trim the hair that sticks up between the toes. Snow LOVES to attach to those big slippers and it doesn’t take long before the dog has all four feet packed with hard cold snow balls between each toe.
So just trim it back or have it done by a professional. It’ll save you so much frustration and winter can become fun again for you and your dog.
Trimming the Pads
Don’t forget about the underside or the pad area. Dogs with hairy feet often have an abundance of hair in their pads as well. Snow loves to get impacted in that hair and it doesn’t take long before it turns to actual ice. That is also pretty uncomfortable for your dog as well and essentially they are getting it from both sides. Top of the foot and the bottom of the foot, OUCH!
I like to trim the hair in the pads back quite a bit. I don’t always remove ALL the hair in the pad area. I like to leave a bit of hair in there with the intention of creating a bit of a barrier for ice and snow. Having said that, too much hair can and does cause big problems for a lot of dogs. So I prefer to keep an eye on how much hair is in that area on my dog, and keep it neatly trimmed and maintained nicely.
Keep the Feet Clean
The next challenge for dog owners is the salt that spread EVERYWHERE. That stuff really bothers dog’s feet and owners get really worried about it. Which is why I advise that a routine be put in place after every outing and walk outdoors. If you establish a routine and stick with it, you will help maintain healthy feet all winter long. It’s simple, cheap and easy.
Get a small tub at the dollar store. You know the kind of shallow dish tubs? One of those. Or a small bucket would work well. Keep that dish pan or bucket at the back door, on the deck, in the garage. Fill it with some warm water and rinse your dog’s feet in it and do it every single time you come in from outside.
I’d keep a clean towel handy in the same area for drying the feet off as well. But the intention here is to rinse off the salt and sand that your dog may have picked up. You don’t want that salt sitting on the pads of his or her feet. You don’t want them licking it off either. So help them out by simply giving them a quick rinse after every outing. It will ease your concerns and their feet will be a lot healthier because of your commitment and dedication to their needs.
Check the Toenails
One last thing. While your rinsing and drying those feet. Or trimming the hair back yourself. Have a peek at the toe nails. Can you remember the last time that they were cut? Do they look like they could use a trim? Are there any cracks in the nails, any areas that look split? Keep an eye on those nails folks. Toe nails that are too long are also uncomfortable for your dog.
Feet that are trimmed neatly. Pads that are kept clear. Means that you can see the overall health of your dog’s entire foot as well as the nails, at all times.
Tips for Wearing Dog Boots
Even if you have your dog wearing “the booties,” keeping the hair trimmed back and the nails maintained helps tremendously. If you have never tried the booties and are considering giving it a go? Here’s a quick tip.
Try the boots on while inside and you have no intention of going anywhere. Whether you put one boot on the front and one boot on the rear. Let them walk around the house for a while. Give them an opportunity to make the adjustment. Then maybe add the other two feet.
Your dog’s pads are highly sensitive. The pads detect the type of surface that they are standing, walking or running on. So if it’s a slippery surface, or a hard bumpy surface, a wet area, hot, cold …you name it. It is picked up by the sensitivity in the pads first and then the message is sent to the brain. That’s how they navigate themselves across, over and through everything.
So those booties dull their sensitivity and for some it can be scary or feel incredibly weird. You will have a better chance of success in using the boots IF you ease them into wearing them. The last thing you want to do is open the package, slap them on and dash out the door to go for walkies. Give them an adjustment phase and some patience and hopefully your dog will make the adjustment easily.
I’d love to hear from you with your questions, comments and concerns about what you find challenging about looking after your dog’s feet at home. Whether you are looking to bump up your game in between professional dog grooming visits at home. Or our are a complete 100% DIY’er…your feedback and questions, help me help others.
For more grooming tips, techniques, and answers to common challenges, hop on over to our Consumer Education page. I also share a lot of behind the scenes from my shop on both Facebook and YouTube. I’d love to see you there.
P.S. If you would like to hear these tips straight from the salon, watch my live recording below…