The cold weather does nothing to stop some dogs from their regular routine. They still want to go for walks, run around in the yard and break up their day with playtime in the great outdoors. OK, in your backyard, but you get the point.

Just because your dog seems to enjoy running around in the snow, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a few precautions when sending him outside during the winter. After all, you don’t let your four-year old daughter even head to the car without bundling her up. Don’t worry, though, you won’t need to spread your dog out on the floor like a squirming starfish and wiggle her into a puffy, little snowsuit. Well, you can if you want, but if you really want to address your dogs’ well-being in the winter, you’ll need to focus on a few things. This week, we’ll focus on their paws.

Paw problems

Even the heartiest dog needs his paws protected in the winter. Don’t let the padding fool you. While your dog’s walk outside isn’t exactly equivalent to you walking barefoot to the train, there’s a direct connection between the cold you feel on your bare skin and the cold they feel on theirs. A dog’s paws aren’t made of teflon. They get wet and cold, and if you’re not careful, they can be susceptible to frostbite.

If your dog spends time outside without his paws covered—especially those dogs that go on extended walks or runs during the winter months—be sure to inspect their paws when you return to the house. Look carefully at their paws, paying special attention to the space between their toes, and clean them by dipping their paws in warm—not hot—water and dry them off to remove any excess salt or dirt. Think of your car. That layer of salt is a seasonal addition to your paint job. Road salt can be harmful to your dog, resulting in dry and cracked paw pads and, let’s face it, a lot of discomfort. It’s also important to keep road salt outside of your dog’s stomach. If there’s a lot of salt on their paws, they’ll lick it off and ingest some of the road salt, which contains some harmful toxins.

Boots are made for walkin’

If your dog is going to spend some time on all fours outside, protect his feet with boots. While there are numerous versions of dog boots, we recommend Pawz waterproof dog boots. They’re relatively inexpensive and stay secure on your dog’s paws, thanks to a tapered, snug fit around the bottom of the leg. More importantly, the material allows your dogs to maintain contact with the ground, which is important. Excessively padded boots can limit or eliminate a dog’s sensation of contact with the paved surface or grass below them, resulting in one confused canine.

Still, don’t expect your dog to show immediate appreciation of your efforts to keep their paws warm. Even the most responsive footwear might take some getting used to. Given the proliferation of “dogs in boots” videos on YouTube, you might want to record your dog’s first foray into the world of footwear. Don’t worry, though. They’ll adjust. Think about that four-year-old who insists she can walk to the car in bare feet and pajamas when it’s 10 degrees outside. Not up to her, right? If you have a dog in your family, you occasionally have to pull rank to make sure they’re protected from the outdoor elements. 

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