Whether it’s the spring slush after a snowy winter, a trip to the beach or riverside, or ground turned to muck after heavy rains, most dogs will make the most of it by getting as dirty as possible.
Unfortunately for us, a muddy dog can mean a car full of dirt paw prints and a floor or furniture covered with muck and grime. And dirty paws aren’t the only problem.
If a muddy dog has been left to dry inside, you might find a dog-shaped pile of sand on the floor later. Even more frustrating is when it cakes your carpet or gets smeared on your walls.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast and choosing your walk routes carefully can somewhat avoid the problem. Still, sooner or later, you will have a muddy dog. And it’s best to be prepared for this to prevent also having a dirty house.
It’s also essential to keep your dog free of mud since caking of the fur can lead to matting and fungal or bacterial infections in the skin.
How Do You Clean Muddy Dog Paws?
There are two main methods of cleaning your dog’s paws. The dry-then-bathe process works best if you have somewhere warm and dry to keep your dog while you wait. This could be outside in your yard, provided your yard isn’t the source of the mud, or in a designated pen or crate that is easy to clean.
On the whole, dry mud is easier to get off your dog than wet dirt.
It’s also best to condition your dog to have its paws handled and touched from a young age to make the whole process more manageable when they are older.
The other option is the rinse-and-wipe method. You can use a hose outside for this in warm weather, or you can keep a bucket of clean, warm water near the door if it’s winter.
Either way, it’s best to be prepared and to have a plan in place.
Dry then Bathe Method
What you need:
- A slicker brush
- Clean, old towels
- A blow dryer
- Dog shampoo
- A dog car seat cover in case of traveling
- Eye Wipes
- If you are returning from a walk or hike and your dog has been swimming, make sure you have towels to soak up the worst of the water before your dog shakes it everywhere.
- If you have driven your dog somewhere, like the dog park, after rain or snowmelt, cover your car seats with a dog car seat cover, so you don’t end up with a dirty car as well.
- Once home, find a warm, dry space for your dog to wait while the mud dries. This could be in your yard if it isn’t muddy there or in a penned-off area of the house that you don’t mind sweeping up later, such as your garage. Give your dog a chew toy or a filled Kong to keep them busy while you wait.
- Once your dog has dried, you may find that a lot of the mud has already caked and fallen off. This can simply be swept away. If your dog dried off on the carpet, then it should be relatively easy to hoover up. However, try to keep your muddy dog away from carpets until they have been cleaned.
- The next step is to use the slicker brush to get off the bulk of the remaining mud. Also, make sure to do this where the dry earth is easy to sweep away.
- After the brushing, bathe your dog. Pay special attention to their paws and their rear end. Make sure there isn’t mud stuck in any nooks and crannies. It’s important not to bathe your dog too much, though, as it can strip the natural oils from their coat. This can result in dry and itchy skin or bacterial and fungal infections. Using a nourishing dog shampoo to help restore its natural shine.
- Once bathed, towel and blow dry your dog dry. Look for any spots you might have missed and give another once over with your brush. If your dog has a thick winter coat or long hair, you may need to repeat this process a couple of times.
Rinse and Wipe Method
Then rinse and wipe method is the second option for cleaning muddy paws. It works best if your dog isn’t completely covered in mud and if you already bathed them recently.
For this method, you need:
- A hose or a bucket of water
- Car seats if you have been traveling.
- For this method, you can use your hose outside if it is warm enough. If it is cold, rather take a bucket of warm and use a sponge. Hose or sponge the mud from your dog’s coat, making sure to lift the paws one at a time and clean between the toes and pads.
- You can also keep a small kiddie’s pool outside for your dog to stand in to allow the mud to soak out. Make sure the water isn’t too cold in winter, though.
- Use your wipes or your sponge to wash the mud off the paws while you rinse.
- Cover your dog with a towel if it is winter while you wash their paws. After getting the mud out, use the towel to dry off the wet bits thoroughly before they come inside.
- Remember that cleaning your dog’s paws is as vital as trimming their nails. It gives you a chance to look for thorns or sores that might become infected. The toes are also a favorite hiding place for parasites like ticks, so take advantage of this process to give your dog a thorough once over.
As you can see, cleaning muddy paws can be a bit of a long process. That’s why the best cure is to try to prevent it in the first place.
8 Ways to Prevent Dirty Paws
It may not always be possible to prevent muddy paws. After all, your dog will still need to go potty in the yard, sometimes while it is raining.
Nevertheless, you can mitigate the problem by keeping an eye on the weather and planning.
1. Make sure you have what you need before you walk your dog
If it looks like you have a rainy week ahead or if you are going somewhere near water, make sure you have everything you need to deal with a muddy canine. Keep a cleaning kit or wash station near your front door as well as in your car. Make sure you have plenty of:
- Doggy shampoo
- A bucket or container with water or a hose.
- Any of the other paw cleaning products are mentioned below.
2. Block access to muddy places
If it has been raining, no doubt your yard will have areas more prone to mud than others. This can include flower beds or spots where the grass has been dug up. Try to keep your dog in areas with the least wet soil possible.
3. Trim your dog’s hair
If your dog has a long or medium-length coat, take a trip to the doggy parlor and ask that the hair on the legs and between the paw pads be trimmed or clipped. It’s best not to try doing this yourself unless you are experienced.
If your dog has a lot of hair on its belly, consider clipping this as well, in case your dog lies down in a muddy pool on a hot day.
For longer-haired breeds whose coat you want to keep intact to prevent damage, make sure you keep it brushed and in good condition since mud can add to matting problems.
4. Plan your walk route based on the weather
Download a weather app on your phone and keep it in mind before you go for walks. If you’re in for a wet week, or if the winter snows are melting, then stick to the tarmac and pavement rather than walking in parks or on trails.
If you have a water-loving breed, taking them to the beach might be a better option when possible rather than a lake or river. However, there’s no joy like a Labrador that has found a pond to splash in, so sometimes you will need to pick your battles and allow your dog to just be a dog.
5. Invest in dog doormats
Have a doormat outside your door, as well as inside, so that your dog can wipe off the mud as they exit and enter.
6.Train your dog to wipe its paws
Like place training, this can become part of your dog’s routine. Simply start by luring your dog onto the mat with treats. When your dog is accustomed to standing on the mat, wait for them to move their paws and reward.
Gradually withhold rewards according to how much they are scraping their paws against the mat. Once they learn to actively rub all four paws on the mat, introduce a cue and reward them for doing this every time they come into the house.
7. Zip-up dog bags
Zip-up dog bags or dry dog bag towels are helpful, particularly when traveling. They cover your entire dog, keeping the mud from getting over your car.
8. Invest in some doggy clothing
Although not all dogs might go for this, you can try putting doggy booties on your pup’s feet to keep them clean. You can also have a look at water-proof dog jackets to keep your dog’s body dry.
What Do You Do with a Muddy Dog?
Aside from using the Dry then Bathe, or the Rinse then Wipe method, there are other ways to keep your floors safe from muddy paws.
Firstly, you can put dog mittens or boots over their feet. Some of these come with a helpful non-slip surface for slippery floors. Others you can have your dog wear outside on a walk to keep their paws clean. Dog booties also help for hot pavements or freezing snow.
Keeping a pack of special paw wipes on you is also helpful in a pinch. This is especially true if you aren’t near your wash bucket or hose and your pup has stepped in something smelly. Waterless shampoo can also make the wipes more effective.
If your dog has already tracked mud into your house, then a safe cleaning agent is a simple mix of vinegar and water. You can mix either equal parts distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar with water in a spray bottle. Apply it to the muddy surfaces and simply scrub clean.
If you dilute the vinegar with two parts water, you can also use it to clean your dog’s feet. The high acidity has an anti-fungal benefit, but make sure it is properly diluted, as too much can create a chemical burn.
Another great product to consider is dog paw wax. While it won’t protect your dog’s feet from snow or hot surfaces like booties or keep your dog’s paws clean, it does form a natural barrier that can keep the paws from being damaged.
Muddy, dirty paws can be one of the less fun aspects of having a dog.
It only takes one rainstorm to have your house in chaos, especially if you have multiple dogs thundering inside from a mucky yard.
However, with the proper preparation and a bit of routine practice, you can save your floors and your furniture from the worst of it and save yourself a couple of hours of cleaning in the process.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.