Even the prissiest dogs are often gravitationally attracted to mud, puddles, and other filthy areas – dogs will be dogs, after all.
While you may not mind if your pooch gets a little dirty, you certainly don’t want him tracking dirt all over your home. This means you need to clean off your dog’s paws before letting him inside.
There are a number of different ways you can clean your dog’s feet, but the easiest and most effective way to do so is with the help of a paw washer.
Paw washers are small devices that are designed to make it easy to clean your dog’s feet before going in the house (or your car). There are a few different styles employed by various manufacturers, but most involve some type of water reservoir which features soft bristles to help dislodge stubborn bits of dirt or mud.
Basically, you stick your dog’s paws in the reservoir (one at a time), swish the water around or spin the container to engage the bristles, and then remove your dog’s paw. You can then dry the paw (if you like – this isn’t always necessary) and move on to the next foot. Some owners like to add a bit of gentle soap to the paw washer, but others simply use clean water.
Some paw washers are designed to be kept by your front or back door and used when bringing your dog back inside. Others, however, are smaller and portable. These are designed to go with you on your walk, which gives you a chance to wash your pup’s paws as needed.
The following four paw washers are among the best available. Each provides a different set of strengths and weaknesses, so be sure to pick the style that sounds like it will suit you and your dog the best.
About: The Dexas Petware Mudbuster Paw Cleaner is a simple, yet effective tool for getting the dirt, dust, and debris off your pup’s paws.
Small, convenient, and easy to use, you simply add a bit of water to the container, insert your dog’s foot, spin the cleaner, remove the foot and dry it (lather, rinse and repeat with the remaining paws). This unit features soft bristles and is available in several different sizes and colors.
About: The Paw Plunger is a mug-shaped paw cleaner that is easy to carry and use. Simply fill the container with water, insert your dog’s paw and spin it around a bit to let the soft bristles do their job.
The Paw Plunger’s unique design is praised for preventing spilled water and messes, and the attached lid makes it easy to pre-fill the container before heading out on walks.
About: Unlike many of the other paw washers on the market, which use a single supply of water, the SKI Innovations Paw Boss is a multi-reservoir unit that allows you to use fresh, clean water for each of your dog’s paws. To use the Paw Boss, you simply tilt it one way to fill the paw-cleaning compartment with clean water, and then tilt it the other way to empty the dirty water.
About: The Paw Wash is a brushless paw cleaner that cleans your dog’s paws via hydraulic suction rather than standard bristles. The brushless design can be less frightening for skittish dogs, who don’t like their paws touched, and it also makes the tool easier to clean out once you’ve washed your dog’s feet.
While the Paw Wash for Dogs and the Paw Boss both have intriguing design features, they appear to be hit-or-miss paw washers, who worked well for some owners and not at all for others.
By contrast, the Mudbuster received mostly positive reviews. The Mudbuster features a very simple and effective design, and it is available in three different sizes, which helps to eliminate many of the sizing problems that occur with other paw cleaners.
There aren’t a ton of paw washers on the market, but there are still good and not-so-good options. Fortunately, it isn’t very hard to tell them apart, just look for the following characteristics:
Bristles and brushes can be helpful for removing some of the stubborn dirt on your dog’s feet, but you don’t want them to irritate or injure your dog’s paws in the process. Look for paw washers that feature bristles and brushes made from silicone, rubber, or soft plastic, as these will be relatively gentle on your dog.
If you plan on taking the paw washer with you on walks, you’ll likely want to fill it before leaving the house. This means you’ll clearly want one that has a lid to keep the water from sloshing around and creating a mess.
Even if your dog doesn’t mind the paw-washing process at all, you’ll find that the ordeal involves a fair bit of wrestling with your pup while holding the paw washer. Accordingly, you’ll want to make things as easy for yourself as possible by selecting a paw washer that is easy to hold and accepts your dog’s foot comfortably.
While some high-quality consumer goods are made in China or other developing countries, those made in the United States (or Western Europe) are almost always of higher quality. You’ll usually pay a bit more for US-made items, but they’ll generally outperform lower-quality products and last longer too.
Of course, the best way to clean your dog’s paws is to keep them from getting dirty in the first place. This isn’t always possible, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try. Some of the best ways to keep your pup’s paws clean include:
Invest in some dog booties. Dog booties are an easy way to keep the dirt off your dog’s paws, and they also help to protect your pup’s feet from hot asphalt or rough terrain.
Avoid walking in muddy areas. This is so obvious that it borders on being self-evident, but if you just keep your dog from walking in the mud, his feet will stay much cleaner. And of all the things that can coat your dog’s feet, such as dirt, sand, and snow, mud is certainly the most difficult to remove.
Don’t let your dog walk through puddles. The wetter your dog’s feet are, the more debris that will stick to them, so try to steer your dog away from puddles and wet grass while going out. It’s also worth mentioning that puddles are veritable petri dishes that are full of bacteria and other nasty organisms, which you don’t need in your dog’s life.
Avoid parking lots and other high-traffic areas. It can be very difficult to remove the grit, grime, and gunk that will coat your dog’s feet after walking through parking lots and similar places. These types of places often have plenty of nails, broken glass, and other hazards too, so just avoid them whenever possible.
If you’re looking for full-body cleaning strategies after a trip romping through the mud or rolling around at the beach, also make sure to check out our article detailing the best portable dog bathing tools – they’re great for giving your pooch a full body rinse off.
While most people will find commercially produced paw cleaners to be easy to use, effective and worth the investment, there are a few DIY methods you can use to clean your pup’s paws. Most of the solutions are remarkably simple and somewhat effective, but none work quite as well as commercial paw cleaners do.
You can use a damp towel to wipe your pup’s paws off, before switching to a dry towel to dry them. This is a pretty easy way to clean your pup’s feet, and it is probably the best option for dogs who are uncomfortable with having their paws touched. However, carrying two towels around with you is hardly convenient, and you’ll have to wash the towels after every use.
Another similar option are disposable paw wipes that can be used to wipe down your pup’s tootsies after a romp in the mud.
Most commercial paw washers are essentially specially constructed cups that hold a bit of water, so a cup (like a plastic fountain cup) makes a reasonable facsimile. You could even place a soft-bristled brush inside the cup if you like, but that seems like an awful lot of effort to save a marginal amount of money, and you’d probably be happier buying a commercial model.
You can use soft scrub brushes and a bit of water to clean your dog’s feet, just make sure that you use a brush with very soft bristles to avoid harming your dog’s feet. However, the cost of a suitable brush is not that much lower than the price of a fully functional paw washer, which will probably do a better job anyway.
Have you ever used a paw washer for your pooch? How did it work out for you? Does your dog mind you using it? We’d love to hear about your experiences, so tell us about them in the comments below.
Last update on 2018-12-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.