Keeping your dog's paws, pads and nails in good condition contributes to its overall health and well-being. Routine grooming, which includes paw inspection, nail trimming and pad conditioning, takes little time and helps you bond with your dog. Follow a few simple steps to make paw grooming an enjoyable experience for you both.
Inspect your dog's paws weekly. Look for signs of dryness or cracking in the pads, torn or overgrown nails, and minor cuts anywhere in the paw. Check for small objects that might be lodged between pads. Use tweezers to remove anything you find. Praise your dog during an inspection to send the message that paw handling is a good thing.
Trim the fur around the paws. When long paw fur becomes matted it can hide irritating objects such as small stones and soot. Matted fur itself becomes an irritant when it cakes and hardens. Remove this fur carefully with scissors, clipping in small snips rather than cutting large chunks of hair at a time.
Examine nails and trim as needed. Clip after a bath, when nails will be softer, and use a trimmer designed for dog nails. Take care not to trim too short, as dog nails contain a small vein, called a quick, and clipping too close to the quick can cause bleeding and pain.
Massage Vitamin E oil or paw wax into your dog's pads to keep them soft and prevent drying and cracking, which can be very painful. If using Vitamin E, poke a hole in a few capsules and squeeze out as much oil as needed to massage into pads. Paw wax, which can be purchased online or at pet shops, protects pads from rock salt in winter and hot pavement in summer by forming a protective barrier.
Watch for paw licking or chewing, which can be triggered by allergies or irritants. Keep your dog away from lawn chemicals and any known allergens, including ragweed or plants in your yard, to help maintain paw health. If a dog's paw licking becomes obsessive, seek veterinary care to determine the cause and develop a treatment.
Handle your dog's paws while playing or petting so the animal becomes accustomed to you touching the paws when you're not grooming. This should be easy to do with puppies, but older dogs that are not used to being paw handled may protest. Work gently to convince an uncomfortable dog that your handling of its paws can be a time of bonding.