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dog parent basics
Owner cleaning their dog's paws

The essentials

  • Clean paws are an important part of healthy living — Don’t neglect to check and clean them frequently.
  • They need to be cleaned roughly once a week — There are no official guidelines for how often you should clean your dog’s paws. But checking them once a week is a good idea.
  • Dirty paws are problematic — They’re not just bad for your floors and carpets, they’re bad for your dog, too. Dirty paws can lead to skin issues like paw pododermatitis.
  • It’s simple for pet parents to do — Keeping your pup’s paws clean is important work, but it isn’t hard work. Unless your dog’s paws are really dirty, you’ll be able to clean them in 10 minutes or less!

Cleaning your pup’s paws is very important — and easy to do! Most of the time, you’ll be able to clean your dog’s paws in just a few minutes. Here are 6 easy steps to clean your dog’s paws (no matter how muddy they might be):

What you’ll need

  • Paper towels
  • Wet wipes
  • Cloth towels
  • Pet-friendly soap or dog shampoo
  • Water

1. First, wipe your dog’s paws down with wet wipes

When it comes to simple paw cleanings, wet wipes will be your best friend. Use one wipe per paw (don’t wipe two paws with the same section of one wipe) to make sure each paw is getting completely clean.

If you’re on the go, we recommend a portable dog paw cleaner like the Dexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Washer. It’s easy to use and the silicone bristles get your pup’s paws totally clean. It holds all the dirt and mud so you don’t have to worry about transporting dirty wipes. When you get home, the MudBuster is extremely easy to clean too — no mess, ever!

2. Consider a full foot bath

For extra muddy feet, give your dog’s feet a bath with pet shampoo and a bowl of warm water. Dip your dog’s feet in the soapy water, rinse, and wipe down with a towel. Yes, you may have to carry them inside to avoid getting their paws on the floor, but it’s the best way to clean those extra muddy paws.

If it’s warm outside, you can use a hose or sprayer (with a gentle setting) to wet your dog’s paws, then use soap, a soft sponge, and a towel to clean them off. It’s a little messier than using the sink or bathtub, but at least you get to clean your dog’s paws before they come inside!

3. Always check between your dog’s toes and paw pads

Water and soap do wonders against dirt and bacteria, but they don’t get between the toes and paw pads. This means you should check them yourself after washing.

Make sure nothing’s stuck between your dog’s toes. Also check for any cuts, abnormalities, or parasites like ticks. These nooks and crannies in your dog’s paws are easy to forget about, but they’re also some of the most vulnerable spots on your dog’s entire body.

4. Dry their feet off with a grooming towel

Your dog’s feet aren’t completely clean until they’re dry — wet feet can be problematic for dogs, too. A dog’s fur can remain wet in between the toes and foot pads for prolonged amounts of time, causing dermatitis and infections. It’s a bit like a human wearing wet socks around the house all day.

Take a grooming towel and wipe your dog’s feet until they are completely dry. If you don’t like the thought of having soggy toes, remember that your pup doesn’t like it either.

5. Remember to keep foot hair trimmed

The fur on your dog’s feet can become overgrown, just like the rest of their coat. When overgrown, the fur around the toes and foot pads traps moisture, dirt, and bacteria. This makes overgrown fur near the feet potentially harmful for your dog.

Use a pair of grooming scissors to carefully trim your dog’s fur around the bottom of their feet. If the fur is sticking through their toes and foot pads more than a quarter of an inch, it’s a good idea to trim it back a bit.

👉 This has no effect on your dog, other than keeping them safe from infections. 

6. Reward your dog with a treat

Your dog likely doesn’t understand the importance of letting you clean their paws, so it’s best to reward them with a treat. This gets them used to the process and teaches them that patience during cleaning is rewarded.

If your dog is especially impatient or fussy when having their paws cleaned, you can use a licking mat to keep them distracted. Put some peanut butter on the mat, and they’ll be so preoccupied with their treat they may not even notice you cleaning their paws!

Why are clean paws important for dogs?

Dirty paws can be pretty annoying when you’re trying to keep your floors and furniture from getting muddy paw prints on them. But, did you know that dirty paws can be detrimental to your dog’s health, not just your hardwood floors?

Here are some of the concerns for dogs with perpetually muddy and dirty paws:

  • Paw pododermatitis. This skin issue results in sores, blisters, inflammation, and lots of pain for dogs affected by it.
  • Paw yeast infections. Red, irritated paws and a foul odor are only the beginning of the list of reasons you want to avoid this skin issue.
  • Paw cuts. Even minor wounds and abrasions can develop infections and can be incredibly painful for your dog.
  • Winter irritation. Snow, ice, and salt can get wedged between dogs’ toes, causing lots of pain and skin irritation.
  • Ingesting materials. Dogs lick their paws to clean them on their own, and this means anything on their paws (such as poop, bacteria, or even chemicals present on roads and sidewalks) can potentially be ingested.
  • Seasonal or environmental allergies. Dirty paws are exposed to allergens, too, putting your pup at risk for allergic reactions.

How to protect your dog’s paws

Cleaning is just one part of the equation. If you want your dog to be safe from germs, parasites, and other icky things they may step in, you should protect their paws, too.

Get your dog a pair of dog bootiesDog booties act as a protective barrier between your dog’s paw pads and the ground. Booties are especially helpful for dogs who live in colder climates with snow and ice on the ground.

Moisturize your dog’s paws with a paw balm — Paw balms add an extra layer of protection to your dog’s paws. Our favorite is Natural Dog Company’s PawTection, because it not only insulates the paws, it helps to moisturize them and heal any cracks or dryness your dog may be dealing with. It’s also organic and vegan, which means it’s safe in case your dog licks it.

In the summer, avoid daytime walks — Hot pavement can burn your dog’s paws in the summer, so it’s important to avoid walking in the middle of the day to prevent burns and blisters on your dog’s paw pads.

Try to avoid sidewalks in winter — Unless your dog simply can’t stand the snow, it’s actually better for them to walk in the snow during winter instead of on the sidewalk. Sidewalks and roads are more likely to be covered in salt and de-icers, which can get lodged between your dog’s toes.

Stay on the grass — No matter the weather, grass is the best surface for your dog to walk on. Concrete, gravel, and dirt all have distinct disadvantages and can be bad for your dog’s paws. Stick to grass wherever possible!

And don’t forget about nail trimming!

Along with paw care, nail trimming is also important. Long, overgrown nails can lead to nail or paw injuries and infections, so it’s important to care for your dog’s nails. If you aren’t comfortable trimming them at home, make sure you regularly take your dog to the groomer.

If you don’t know how to trim your dog’s nails, you can also ask your veterinarian for a demonstration. You can use a nail trimmer, a heavy-duty nail file, or a specialized nail grinder to help keep their nails at the appropriate length.

The most important thing to remember when trimming nails is to be patient and calm with your dog — and to avoid trimming too far. You should trim your dog’s nails as often as it takes to prevent their nails from touching the ground when they’re standing. In some dogs, this may mean trimming once a week; other dogs may have nails that grow slower and only need to be trimmed monthly.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the easiest way to clean a dog’s paws?

Most of the time, a few wet wipes are all you need to keep your dog’s feet clean. Make sure to check between their toes for mud or debris, too.

Should I clean my dog’s paws after a walk?

Unless the weather is pleasant, dry, and warm, it’s a good idea to at least do a basic cleaning of your dog’s paws. It only takes a couple of minutes, and it’s a great way to ensure your dog stays healthy and comfortable.

Can I wash my dog’s paws every day?

Yes! If you live in a wet or muddy climate, or you just want to be extra careful with your dog’s paws, daily cleaning is a good idea. It has no adverse effects on your dog and will give you peace of mind knowing they aren’t at risk for paw infections.

How often should I soak my dog’s paws?

Any time your dog’s paws have gotten more than a small amount of dirt or mud on them, it’s a good idea to give them a soak in the tub with lukewarm water. Additionally, you may want to give their paws a good wash more often in the winter (every few days, perhaps) to ensure that salt and deicers aren’t stuck in their paws. Finally, if you live in an extra wet or muddy climate (or if your dog just loves to get dirty), you should clean their paws more often, perhaps even daily.