How to Groom a Dog's Feet

Medium
20 - 30 Minutes
1 Month

Introduction

Why groom your dog's feet? Especially the underside of his paws--you can't even see those, right? 

For many dogs that have hair growing thick between their paw pads, especially long-haired and silk-haired breeds, this excess hair can cause a multitude of problems. Excess hair growing in the feet can cause reduced traction on slippery floor surfaces, resulting in slips, falls, and injuries. Also, long hair on the feet collects dirt and debris, which can be tracked in your house. Long hair between the toes can become matted from friction when your dog walks and cause discomfort to your dog, even sores that can become infected. Wet hair between the toes does not easily dry, can collect bacteria and dirt, and result in fungal or bacterial infections on your dog's feet, especially between toes. Debris can also attach to hair between your dog's toes, and if you live in a cold climate, snow buildup on long hair between the toes can cause your dog's feet to get frostbite. Mud, grass seeds, burrs, gum, and other debris can get caught, build up, and cause mats and sores that compromise paws pads and foot tissues. So removing excess hair on the foot is a benefit, not just to having your dog's paws look neater, but reduces the likelihood of injury and painful conditions in your dog's paws.

Dog's Perspective

Yikes, my feet are ticklish! Feet can be sensitive and delicate, which is ironic for something we walk on! Many dogs do not like having them handled. Also, if your dog has sore paw pads from mats or infection between the toes, or cracks on the pads his feet may hurt, causing him to be reluctant to have them handled. Another issue is that it is not uncommon for a dog to have accidentally had his nails cut too short in the past, which is very painful. All these reasons can cause your dog to be uncomfortable and uncooperative having his feet groomed. Handling your dog's feet on a daily basis, even when not grooming, will desensitize your dog to having his feet handled, making it easier at grooming time, and will enable you to find cracks, mats, and sores as soon as they become apparent so you can do something right away.

The Scissor Method

Effective
0 Votes
Scissors
Nail Clipper
Comb
Step
1
Prepare paws
Examine the paws first, manually remove any debris present, wash and dry paws. Clip nails, including dewclaws if present. Have a styptic powder available in case of any nicks to stop bleeding.
Step
2
Access paws
Put your dog on a non-slip surface. Gently bend the dog's leg to access the paw. Avoid twisting the leg, as this is hard on your dog's joints.
Step
3
Access hair
Gently manipulate your dog's toes by holding the paw in your hand and pressing the thumb between the paw pads to reveal hair between the pads. The area between your dog's paw pads forms a V. Manually pull out hair in the V and between toes so that it is sticking out perpendicularly. You can use your hands or a comb to tease hair out.
Step
4
Trim bottom of foot
Using sharp, straight edged scissors, hold scissors parallel to the pads and trim hair. Be careful of the tips of the scissors, do not point them into your dog's paws or between toes, as this could injure your dog. Snip small amounts of hair at a time, working slowly and carefully.
Step
5
Trim top of foot
Trim excess hair from the top and edges of your dog's feet with scissors. Hold scissors flush with the feet and work slowly and carefully, watch the tip of your scissors and ensure your dog does not move. Having someone else hold and provide affection to your dog or providing him with a chew toy to keep him occupied may be helpful.
Recommend grooming method?

The Clipper Method

Effective
0 Votes
Scissors
Nail Clipper
Comb
Clipper
Step
1
Clip nails
Examine paws first, manually remove debris present with fingers or tweezers, and wash and dry paws. Clip nails, including dewclaws if present. Have a styptic powder available in case of any nicks to stop bleeding.
Step
2
Position your dog
Put your dog on a non-slip surface. Have the dog restrained with a neck restraint and a restraint around their hip to prevent them from sitting. Gently bend the dog's legs one at a time to access each paw. Do not lift too high so that your dog loses his balance. Avoid twisting the leg as this is hard on your dog's joints. Usually groomers start with the back paws.
Step
3
Reveal hair
Gently manipulate your dog's toes by holding the paw cupped in your hand and gently pressing the thumb between the paw pads to reveal hair between the pads. The area between your dog's paw pads forms a V shape. Manually pull out hair in the V and between toes so that it is sticking out, you may use a comb for this.
Step
4
Clip in scoop motion
Using short clipper blades, usually #15, scoop the clipper head between the pads and the toes. Gently create a space with your thumb between each pad and toe, work in both directions with the clipper, using a scooping motion. Make sure blades stay cool. Test temperature regularly.
Step
5
Clip top
Clip top of paw and use thinning shears to trim hair around edge of paw and clean up any extra hairs that look uneven from the clippers.
Recommend grooming method?

Caution & Considerations

  • You can put vitamin E oil or paw lotions or ointments on paws that have rashes or sores or just to keep your dog's feet in good health.  Be sure to use products that will not harm your dog if he licks them off.

  • Address any injuries or infections present between the toes or on paw pads with your veterinarian.

  • Make sure your dog does not move while you are trimming nails or clipping hair, to avoid injury. Be extremely cautious, if using scissors, to keep the point away from your dog's skin and hold scissors parallel to your dog.

  • Nail clippers, scissors, and clipper blades should be sharp, and clippers well oiled and cool while using.

  • Regular handling of your dog's feet will make it easier to groom them at grooming time and reveal debris caught between toes sooner.

  • Use assistance, non-slip mats, and restraints to keep your dog still during feet grooming to prevent injury.

  • If your dog has arthritis or orthopedic conditions that make it difficult to manipulate his limbs to access paws , you may need to come up with alternate methods to groom his feet, such as teaching your dog to lie on his side or back, or having an assistant hold your dog in a position that allows you to access feet without stressing your dog.

Conclusion

There is an old saying: "no hoof, no horse."  Ok, so maybe it's not that dire with dogs, but your dog's feet are important! Keeping your dog's feet well-groomed and free of debris and extra hair keeps your dog's feet healthy by preventing mats, debris, and bacteria from causing hot spots, sores, and infections. Grooming feet also improves your dog's traction on slippy surfaces and makes your dog generally more comfortable and easier to keep clean. Hey, everyone needs a good pedicure now and then to make them feel better-- including your dog!

Success Stories and Grooming Questions