Dog Paws: The Foundation of Fitness

Keep your dog's activities on solid footing.

Keep your dog's activities on solid footing.

Every year at the Running Event in Austin, I meet folks who both run and walk with their dogs. I visit with dog lovers, collect great stories, and review products such as reflective gear and hands free leashes. But seeing the plethora of footwear displayed this year, what I had on my mind was…. dog paws!

Australian shepherd with socks 

My Australian Shepherd grand-dog, Cooper, doesn’t know what to do with the plethora of sock samples from the Running Event, but I intend to try them out walking with him. 

Specifically, I listened to information about socks. Of course dogs don’t need socks. The dog paw toughens with walking and rarely needs a bootie of any sort. (Our feet might toughen if we walked barefoot too, but I’m not volunteering for that study!). Our dogs’ paws, similar to our feet, are the foundation for fitness. We can don the best gear, eat healthily, and train with zeal, but if our feet fail us, we’re sidelined. And similarly, if our dogs’ paws fail him, he’s off the agility course, benched at the rally event, or missing his daily stroll (hello French Bulldog!) or long distance run (hello Vizsla!). No quantity of spiffy reflective collars or leashes gets our dogs back on the trails if they have overgrown nails or cracked pads.

Dog running 

 Comfortable socks and shoes keep Airedale Abbey’s owners (and consequently her!) moving. Photo courtesy Tanya Pictor, Balega®

At the 2015 Running Event, I re-connect with Airedale aficionado, Tanya Pictor of Belega®. Pictor talks to me about socks, but only after we talk extensively about dogs. Whether I’m strolling with my older dog, Zoey, or hiking with my grand-dog, the ever-energetic Australian Shepherd Cooper, the correct socks on my feet can wick away moisture, keep blisters at bay, and encourage my walks with comfort,  but what about the dogs? While shoes and socks might not be the best option, there are things you can do to keep your dog’s feet feeling a spring in their step!

Give Your Pup the Perfect Paw-ticure

  • In general if we hear the “click click click” of our dogs’ paws on the floor, we’ve neglected the nails. Trimming nails every 3 to 4 weeks generally keeps them a healthy length and allows the quick to recede so more can be trimmed each time. 
  • Elderly dogs tend to have longer, harder nails which can be prone to cracking or splitting. Often they require more frequent grooming. 
  • Many dogs’ dewclaws don’t touch the ground, so they may need trimming more regularly.
  • If the nails have gotten too long, we can trim small bits more frequently, once or twice a week.
  • If we’ve let them over-grow, we shouldn’t ignore the problem. If it’s out of your realm of comfort, turn to a pet groomer or veterinarian for help. 
  • Afraid of the nail clipper? Try a dremel-styled tool.
  • Use a nail file to help with small dogs’ nails.
  • Check the dog’s paws regularly for cracked pads, and take a trip to the veterinarian if the cracks are severe, or splitting.
  • Carefully trim hair that grows between the paws (or seek a groomer’s help if your dog won’t stay perfectly still for a trim session).
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