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You know your dog needs to be groomed regularly, but did you know that cleaning your dog's paws are an important part of their grooming routine? On daily walks and romps in the yard, your pup's feet are exposed to rough surfaces, wet ground, dirt and debris.
And the pads on the bottom of your pup's paws serve an important purpose. As the ASPCA explains, they "provide extra cushioning to help protect bones and joints from shock, provide insulation against extreme weather, aid walking on rough ground and protect tissue deep within the paw."
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 ASPCA recommends you do at least every three 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 pup's needs. If you frequently take your dog hiking, for example, you may need to check and wash their paws after every trip to the trails. On the other hand, a pooch who spends most of their time indoors and just goes on light neighborhood walks might only need a cleaning when the weather is bad and their paws get dirty or wet.
Preparing for a Dog Paw Cleaning
It's important to check your dog's paws before lathering them up. Often, debris gets stuck between the paw pads or in toenails.
Look for anything that doesn't belong on your dog's paw, such as minuscule pebbles or 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 your dog's paws so it doesn't get matted; this can help them stay clean and prevent dirt from sticking. 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 pup'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. As an even more convenient option, the American Kennel Club recommends using moist wipes that are safe for dogs.
Don't forget to trim your dog's nails and dewclaws (the extra nails on the sides of their paws) if they need trimming; nails should end just before touching the ground. If you hear any clicking when your dog walks, that's a key sign their nails are too long. 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.