Tips for protecting your dog’s paws in the winter

A close up of a white dog's paws on snowy ground.

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It’s that time of year again! The weather is starting to get cold, and we find ourselves looking for ways to keep our pets safe. With the colder temperatures come snow, patches of ice, and salt on sidewalks.

We want our dogs to be protected from these tough elements this winter so we need to take extra care with their paws when they go outside. But with all the other things you have on your plate this time of year it can be hard to remember everything you need to do for them! That’s why we put together this list of tips for protecting your dog’s paws in the winter!

Let’s make sure our dogs stay safe this winter!

Why do we need to protect our dogs’ paws in the winter?

Dog paws need protection in the winter due to the damage that can be caused to their paws by the snow, cold, ice, and salt. The snow, ice, and cold can lead to your dog’s paws getting dry, cracked, and hurting. If your dog is out in the cold for too long, especially if they aren’t used to it or it’s especially cold out, they could even get frostbite on their paws.

The salt used on sidewalks in the winter is dangerous for dog paws because it can get stuck between their toes and burn their paws. Also, if the salt is left on their paws they may lick it off later and this could make them sick.

How do we protect our dogs’ paws?

There are several ways to protect our dogs’ paws in the winter. The best way is to use booties, but there are other things that can be done to help protect their paws this winter.

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Dog Booties

A small white and brown dog wearing a black coat and red and gray striped booties while standing in the snow.

Booties are the best way to protect your dog’s paws in the winter. If you’re not familiar with dog booties, they are basically just like people’s shoes but made specifically for dogs and their paw size. There are many types of dog booties and it may take some trial and error to find the best ones for your dog.

It is important to note that there are some dogs who just won’t stay still long enough for you to put the booties on them, so this method may not be for everyone. If you want to try booties for your dog, first know that you will have to get them used to the booties before it gets cold out so they will leave them on when it is cold out. To do this, first, make sure their nails are trimmed. Then simply slide the booties on and fasten them. Make sure they aren’t too tight, but you want the bootie to fit snugly so they don’t slip off. Then give your dog a treat and take the booties off.

Repeat this a few times each day until they are used to the booties. Then you can make it more difficult for them by not rewarding them as much and having them walk around with the booties on. Eventually, they should begin leaving the booties on outside without any help from you! Hopefully, they will be used to the booties by the time it’s cold outside.

I will say that I have yet to have success getting Morgan to leave the booties on long enough to even get her out the door. No matter how much we try, she just refuses to keep them on if she has to move. She has no problem with them if she is allowed to sit still. Unfortunately, that makes it extremely difficult to take her for a walk! I have yet to try booties for Luna, but she doesn’t seem to be bothered as quickly by the cold sidewalks as Morgan is.

Regular grooming

Regular grooming helps by keeping the fur between the toes short. This reduces the chances of salt or other things getting stuck between their toes during the wintertime and causing them pain.

If you choose not to use dog booties (or your dog refuses to keep them on), make sure they get regular grooming to help keep their paws in good condition.

Regular cleaning

Keep a towel by the door and wipe their paws off when they come in from outside. This will help to reduce how much salt and other bad things is being licked off their paws later on. It also helps get any snow off of them so you don’t get wet floors as the snow melts.

If you live in an area where there is heavy salt use you may want to go one step further and dip your dog’s paws in lukewarm water after they come in. This will help ensure you have got all the salt off their paws. Then just dry them with a towel.

Paw balm

Paw balm helps to protect your dog’s paws during the winter months. It helps prevent damage from the cold and salt and also helps to moisturize your dog’s paws, making them healthier and more comfortable. You can buy paw balm at most pet supply stores or online at Chewy or Amazon.

If you are more of a DIYer, you can make your own paw balm with this recipe.

Keep walks short

A German Shepherd sitting in the snow.

When it’s really cold out it’s best to keep your walks short. The longer your dog is outside in the extreme cold, the more at risk for frostbite they are. Frostbite is when the skin and other body parts are so cold they begin to discolor or lose feeling.

To prevent frostbite, try to walk your dog on shorter walks, but more frequently throughout the day. They will be able to handle being out for a few minutes at a time better than one long walk outside each day.

Shovel a path in your yard

If you let your dog out in the yard to do their business, you should shovel a path for them. If you don’t, they may end up standing in the snow while trying to go potty which can bother some dogs.

This is especially important for small dogs in areas that get a lot of snow. If you don’t shovel the snow, some small dogs may refuse to go outside or may potty in areas that you don’t want them to. Morgan, my smaller dog, will potty on the deck if we don’t shovel a path for her. Once the snow gets too deep she refuses to go into the yard. Luna, on the other hand, absolutely loves the snow and usually has no issues going potty in deep snow, unless she sinks!

So keep an eye on your dog and if they are starting to not want to go into the yard, shovel a path for them. Even for bigger dogs that love the snow, like Luna, it may be a good idea to keep one area clear of snow, or at least with less snow, if you are in an area that gets a lot of snow each winter.

Inspect your dog’s feet regularly

Check your dog’s feet regularly to see if there are any injuries on them. Contact your vet for what to do if you see any injuries on their paws. In the meantime, be extra careful when you take them outside so they don’t hurt their feet even more.

Salt and De-icers Can Be Toxic

If you live in an area that uses salt to keep the streets clear of snow (or people in the neighborhood use it on their sidewalks), be extra careful when taking your dog out in the winter. Salt can irritate their paws and make them uncomfortable. If they get salt on their paws it is important to wash it off when you get home or they could end up licking in and ingesting the salt. If this happens your dog could end up getting sick.

Other outdoor activities besides walks

Sometimes it’s just easier to limit the walks, especially in areas of high sidewalk salt usage, and find other activities to exercise your dog. There are lots of fun things you can do with your dog outside to help them exercise. For ideas, you can check out this post on winter activities for dogs.

Indoor activities for when it’s too cold out

There will also be times that are just too cold or crappy out (blizzard anyone?) for more than a potty break. When these times come, you will want to have some activities for your dog inside. Pack up their toys, bring out some treats, and just have fun with your dog inside. Here are 35 indoor activities for your dog that are great to do with your dog when you don’t want to go outside.


We know winter can be hard on your dog’s paws. But with a little preparation, you can keep them warm and healthy this season! Follow these rules to protect your dog’s paws from snow and other winter hazards.

An image for Pinterest of a small dog wearing a coat and booties with text saying how to keep your dog's paws safe during winter time when salt and ice are on the sidewalk.

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