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How to Wash a Dog's Paws

It can be a real pain when your dog gets into something messy outside and tracks dirty paw prints throughout your home. Even though dogs are bound to get dirty from time to time, there are many ways that you can clean their paws at home. Dirt, snow, and pebbles can also get caught between your dog’s toes, which can make your dog uncomfortable or lead to an infection. With regular washing and care, your dog will stay clean and healthy!

Performing Day-To-Day Cleaning

1. Keep a bucket outside to quickly rinse your dog’s feet. Place the bucket near the door where you normally let your dog in and out of your home. Whenever your dog gets into something outside, fill the bucket with clean, cool water. Lift one of your dog’s paws and dip it in the water. Use your fingers to scrub between your dog’s toes to get rid of anything that might have gotten stuck. Rinse 1 paw at a time until you’ve cleaned them all.

  • You may also use a hose with a showerhead attachment to rinse off your dog’s paws.
  • If your dog doesn’t want to lift its paws into the bucket, then wet a washcloth and use it to wipe your dog’s feet off instead.

2. Hang a towel near your door so you can wipe your dog’s paws before it comes in. If there’s light rain or snow outside, your dog’s feet can get wet and muddy. Keep a soft microfiber towel on a hook just inside the door so you can grab it whenever you take your dog out. Before you let your dog in, lift up one of its paws and gently wipe it off. Dry its paw thoroughly before moving onto the next one. If the towel gets soiled, replace it with one that’s clean.

  • While you can use any type of towel, microfiber will absorb more moisture.
  • Never leave your dog’s paws wet since they’re more prone to slipping on hard flooring.

3. Carry pet-safe grooming wipes for convenient cleaning on the go. Grooming wipes are similar to baby wipes, but they don’t contain any disinfectants that are harmful to dogs. Take a wipe out from the package and rub it on your dog’s paws. When the wipe gets dirty, simply throw it away and pull out a new one.

  • You can buy pet grooming wipes online or at your local pet store.

Warning: Avoid using baby or all-purpose disinfectant wipes since they contain chemicals that are toxic to animals.

Scrubbing the Dog’s Paws with Shampoo

1. Put your dog in a tub with 3–4 in (7.6–10.2 cm) of warm water. Use water that’s warm but not hot to the touch so you don’t hurt your dog. Avoid overfilling your tub, or else it can make your dog feel uncomfortable. Encourage your dog to get in the tub on its own, or pick it up and set it in the water.

  • Your dog may feel nervous getting in a tub. Talk to it in a calming voice and reward good behavior with treats so your dog gets used to bathing.
  • If your dog’s small enough, you can also use a sink instead of a tub.
  • If you don’t have a tub, get a bucket or shallow plastic tub for your dog to stand in.

2. Work dog shampoo into the fur around the paws. Avoid using shampoo or cleaning products made for humans or other animals since they may be toxic to dogs. Work a coin-sized amount of shampoo into a lather on your hands or in a washcloth. Lift one of your dog’s paws and gently scrub it. Try to wipe off any excess dirt or mud that’s stuck on your dog’s legs.

  • You can buy dog shampoo from your local pet store or veterinary clinic.
  • If your dog got into something greasy or sticky, it’s okay to use mild dish soap to clean more efficiently.

3. Pull out any debris that’s stuck in your dog’s paws with your fingers. Spread your dog’s toes apart and check for any pebbles, dirt, or snow that’s caught in the fur. Carefully work your shampoo between your dog’s toes so you can pick out the debris. Check each of your dog’s paws to ensure there’s nothing that will irritate your dog later on.

  • If your dog has ice or snow frozen between its toes, avoid trying to pull them out by hand. Instead, soak the paws in warm water for 3–4 minutes to melt the ice so it’s easier to remove.

Tip: If your dog’s nails click against the floor when it walks, take a few minutes to trim them so they don’t get caught or snagged on anything.

4. Dry the dog’s paws with a towel. Take your dog out of the bath and rub its paws with a clean towel. Work the towel between its toes until they’re thoroughly dry to prevent bacteria growth. Make sure there isn’t any shampoo or soap left on your dog’s paws since it could cause irritation later on.

  • Your dog will probably shake itself dry after getting out of the tub, so you may get wet.

5. Disinfect and bandage any wounds smaller than 2 in (1.3 cm). Inspect your dog’s paws to see if there are any open cuts or wounds. If you notice any that are smaller than 2 inch (1.3 cm), rub a pet-safe antiseptic on the wound until it absorbs completely. Then wrap the paw with a gauze bandage and paper tape so the wound can heal quickly.

  • If your dog has a large wound, take it to a veterinarian to get treatment.
  • If your dog tries to remove the bandage, put a cone around its neck.

Protecting Your Dog’s Paws

1. Check your dog’s paws at least once a week to see if they’re dirty. You normally don’t need to wash your dog’s paws every day, but choose 1 day a week to inspect them. Check for any debris stuck between the pads, dirt, or injuries. If your dog’s paws look dirty, take a few minutes to clean them.

  • If your dog has visibly messy feet, clean them as soon as possible so your dog doesn’t get skin irritation or infections.

2. Put booties on your dog to keep its feet protected. Get a pair of booties that are large enough for your dog’s feet. When you let your dog outside, slide a bootie onto each of its paws and secure them. Before your dog comes inside, take off the booties so it doesn’t track in any dirt. When the booties get dirty, wash them off so you can use them again.

  • You can buy booties online or from your local pet store.

Tip: It may take a little while for your dog to get used to walking in booties, so it may walk awkwardly at first.

3. Coat its paw pads in balm to protect them from heat and snow. Paw balm typically contains beeswax, shea butter, and essential oils and it adds layers of protection to the bottom of your dog’s feet. Use a fingertip-sized amount of balm on each paw and rub it into the pads. The balm will help prevent blisters from hot surfaces and keep snow and ice out from between your dog’s toes.

  • You can buy paw balm online or from your local pet store.
  • If you don’t have paw balm, you can also use unscented petroleum jelly.
  • Keep a towel outside so you can wipe the balm off before your dog goes inside.

4. Trim the hair on the bottom of its paws to prevent matting. Use a pair of blunt-ended scissors so you’re less likely to injure your dog. Lift one of your dog’s paws up and hold your scissors just above the pads. Carefully cut any hair that extends past the pads so dirt and mud don’t get stuck in it and cause the hair to mat. Be sure to trim each of your dog’s paws.

  • If you don’t feel comfortable trimming your dog’s hair, take them to a professional groomer.

Tips

  • Your dog will probably be hesitant the first time you wash its paws. Soothe your dog by talking to it and rewarding it for good behavior. Over time, it will get more used to getting cleaned.
  • Rub your hands down your dog’s legs and gently press on its toes to help your dog feel more comfortable when you touch its feet.

Warnings

  • Avoid using alcohol, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or chemical compounds with the word “phenol” since they are toxic to dogs.
  • If you notice that the skin on your dog’s pads thickens, hardens, or develops a hairy look, your dog may have hyperkeratosis. Take your dog to a vet to have it treated.
  • If your dog gets anxious or doesn’t allow you to wash its paws, take them to a professional behaviorist to help find the underlying issues.
  • If your dog’s paws have a bad odor that doesn’t go away, contact a veterinarian to check for underlying causes.