toughening soft dog padsThey may not feel very soft when pawing at your leg, but a dog’s paws may become more sensitive and softer during the winter season–especially if they’ve been kept inside more often.

Every change in season, weather, activity, and terrain presents a new challenge for dog paws.  Tough as they may seem, a dog’s pads can crack, peel, or tear on the first good run or hike of the season. Here’s some tips for getting paws trail-ready.

Toughening up barefoot paws

  1. Start with short, slow walks on grass or groomed surfaces and work your way up to longer, faster walks on tougher terrain over the course of a few weeks.
  2. Keep paws moisturized with paw wax, petroleum jelly, or other pet-safe moisturizers to help prevent cracking.
  3. Remember that new climates and terrain require conditioning to get the pads used to the new dust/dirt/rock.
  4. Check for swollen, cracked, or damaged paws often.  Check your dog’s gait and look for any signs of discomfort.

Breaking in paws for dog boots

  1. If you opt for dog boots, increase their flexibility prior to using by working the sole in the palm of your hands.
  2. Once the boots are on, your dog will most likely “dance”.  Don’t be alarmed—this is a natural reaction.  To enhance their experience with the boots, try these tips for avoiding the dog boot dance.
  3. Start by putting the boots on in the house for a couple minutes, then try short adventures outside; gradually increasing the time spent in the boots.
  4. Check often for rubbing and hotspots, readjusting the fit if necessary.
  5. Boot liners can be a good solution to enhance the overall comfort and fit of dog boots just like socks help make human shoes more comfortable.