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10 Fast Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Paws After a Walk

Veterinary reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM.

You have probably arrived home from a long walk through rain, snow, or a forest several times and your dog’s paws have picked up a lot of debris, mud, and dirt in the process.

But not only muddy paw prints should evoke the question of how to clean your dog’s paws after a walk.

Those sensitive pads are regularly exposed to a variety of surfaces from hot asphalt to salt and treated lawn.

Burns, irritations, dry skin, and bacteria are the consequences.

Regularly checking and cleaning your dog’s paws after a walk will help prevent those nasty infections and smelly canine feet.

Luckily, there are plenty of easy cleaning solutions available and we will go over each of them including different home remedies, how to disinfect paws and what you can do to treat cracked paw pads.

Let’s start with the simplest question.

Should You Wash Your Dog’s Paws After a Walk?

Cleaning your dog’s paws after a walk is very important and should be part of your routine.

After all, the paws are the dirtiest part of your dog’s body and pick up a lot of grime and dirt anywhere he goes.

Dirty paws of a white furred dog.
Photo by OgnjenO on Shutterstock

Imagine if you would walk barefoot over asphalt, grass, fields, or forests without wiping your feet before you enter your home.

Visible dirt is not the only potential health hazard but also the millions of bacteria that come with it.

Bacteria will accumulate around your dog’s paw pad and also spread around your house.

A simple cut, crack or wound could start an infection when germs are able to enter the broken tissue.

Besides the dirt and bacteria, it’s also important to regularly assess the health of your dog’s paws.

Cleaning your dog’s paws will give you a chance to check the pad for wounds or cracks as well as checking the toes for inflammation or ticks.

Parasites like ticks love hiding between the toes and are therefore well protected from the eyes of a concerned owner.

You may also find thorns or other small, sharp objects stuck between the paws that could get infected if left untreated.

Furthermore, dirty paws are known to ruin expensive rugs and furniture and who wants to deep clean the home after your dog had fun in a puddle?

Especially if you live in a wet climate where moisture and mud can be trapped between your dog’s paws.

Moisture can cause them to become wrinkled and prone to injury while obviously leaving paw prints all over the house.

Hot weather on the other hand can be dangerous for those sensitive pads and heated asphalt can cause burns.

Summer can be equally as bad as winter in that respect.

Freezing temperatures, perhaps even snow, alongside salt on the streets are the perfect mixture for cracked and painful paws.

How to Clean Dog Paws After a Walk

Cleaning your dog’s paws is fairly easy and most debris can be wiped away using a damp washcloth or paper towel while more dirty paws require a quick wash with shampoo.

Before we get into the different paw cleaning methods, make sure that you have thoroughly checked your dog’s paws for any foreign objects, burns, or injuries. Gently spread the toes and look for anything that shouldn’t be there.

Also, make sure to carefully trim the hair around the pad for better cleaning and to prevent matting.

While you’re at it, cut your dog’s nails to a healthy length which is essential to prevent torn or broken nails.

Below you will find several dog paw cleaning solutions to use after a walk in the rain, summer or winter.

Are Baby Wipes Safe for Dogs?

For a quick clean up, wipes are a great option and can easily be carried with you in the car or bag. Baby wipes are perfectly fine to use on your dog’s paws, butt or coat.

If you are looking for dog-specific wipes, I can recommend the Pogi plant-based dog wipes and personally opt for the natural, fragrance-free option.

They hold just the right amount of moisture to thoroughly wipe away any dirt or grind.

Also, make sure that the wipes of your choice are hypoallergenic if your dog suffers from any allergies.

Vitamin E is commonly known for its skin benefits and an amazing ingredient in dog wipes, unlike perfume which adds nothing and is abhorrent for a dog to smell.

Washing Dirty Paws

If your walk included muddy puddles, rain, or salt, wipes probably won’t be enough. Sometimes there is just no way around rinsing your dog’s paws with lukewarm water and mild soap.

Cleaning dirty paws in the bathtub.
Photo by O_Lypa on Shutterstock

Small dogs can be cleaned in the sink while medium, large and giant breeds require a bathtub.

But sometimes you just don’t have enough time to deal with the amount of pet hair that is stuck in the bathtub or the debris left in the sink.

There is a very handy alternative called the Dexas MudBuster which is a portable paw cleaner in a small cup.

You simply need to place the muddy paw inside the waterfilled cup, twist, take it out and pat it dry with a towel.

Dog Paw Cleaner Mat

A cleaning, durable doormat is the best option to prevent the dirt from even getting inside your home.

The Gorilla Grip Doormat will keep debris off your floors and can be placed on any entryway.

It comes with a soft surface for extra comfort and highly absorbent material. Regular washing of the mat will preserve its mud trapping qualities. Even if you are unsatisfied, they have a 10-year guarantee.

To teach your dog to actively wipe his feet, simply place a few smelly treats (like cheese or single-ingredient meats) under the doormat and keep a few treats ready in your hand.

Reward any desired scratching on the mat with the treats in your hand and after a few times you can add a verbal marker such as “wipe”.

Dog Paw Disinfectant

The Curaseb Antifungal & Antibacterial Chlorhexidine Spray disinfects affected areas such as the paws, groin, and underarms and kills the aforementioned bacteria which could cause infections, irritations, or itching.

You can use this antiseptic spray after you have cleaned the paws of any debris. It should not be ingested and can be applied up to three times a day.

The main ingredient in the spray can sting damaged skin, so call your vet before using if there is a scratch, flap, or burn on the paw that you’re worried about.

Dog Paw Cleaning Tablets

Another dog paw cleaning solution are the Warren London Deep Cleaning Paw Fizz tablets.

Simply take one ball or tablet, let it dissolve in warm water, immerse your dog’s paws into the cleaning solution and let them soak for 5 minutes.

You can massage or scrub them with a cleaning brush or a cleaning mit (mentioned below) throughout the soaking process. They may also combat yeast infections and excessive paw licking.

Still, see your veterinarian if you are concerned about a yeast infection on your dog’s paws.

Paw Cleaning Mit

Cleaning mitts like the Microfiber Dog Towel Mit can be used as an additional tool to scrub away dirt and bacteria when washing or soaking the paws.

They can also be used to dry off your dog instead of a normal towel.

Dog Boots

While dog boots are not directly a cleaning method, they can be a great way to prevent your dog’s paws from getting dirty in the first place. They also protect your dog from hot weather as well as freezing temperatures.

When walking outside with your dog in the summer, make sure that the pavement isn’t too hot by placing your bare palm on it.

If you cannot leave your hand there for at least 5 seconds, the asphalt will be too hot for your dog’s paws.

Try to avoid the midday heat and rather go for a walk in the mornings or late evenings when the sun has already set.

Dog boots will protect your dog’s paws but he is still at risk of suffering from heatstroke from prolonged sun exposure.

But not only the sun causes burns, salt and snow can also lead to ice burns. Most dog boots won’t stay on in a few inches of snow and snowballs will form around the edges.

If you are planning on trips through high snow, make sure that the boots cover the paw properly while not imparing their walking ability.

I have put together a list of the 10 best waterproof dog boots. There are several options for you that will work in any weather conditions.

Pug and owner wearing boots.
Photo by Nataliya Kuznetsova on Shutterstock

Home Remedies to Clean Dog Paws

While the above-mentioned methods are proven to be very effective when it comes to cleaning paws after a walk, you might have searched for this article because your dog’s paws got really dirty from a walk and you don’t have anything at home.

You may also be interested in home remedies that are safer and want to try them first before treating your dog with something less natural.

There are two home remedies that are actually my best buddies when it comes to treating close to anything on my dog.

From dandruff, itchy skin to ear infections, mites, fleas, or digestion issues, home remedies may be helpful.

However, please keep in mind that there is no supportive clinical evidence for their use for bacterial infections in animals.

Cleaning Dog Paws With Vinegar

White vinegar and apple cider vinegar can be effective in treating smelly paws from yeast infections and bacteria build-up.

Similar to the cleaning tablets, you will want to let your dog’s paws soak in a 2:1 water and vinegar mixture.

Vinegar is said to have anti-fungal properties and might get rid of smelly feet by making your dog’s paws inhospitable to some bacteria.

However, keep in mind that vinegar is acidic and could sting, irritate, or even damage the skin of a dog’s paw.

If your dog is experiencing serious medical issues, prescription meds might be necessary so consult your vet to be sure.

Coconut Oil for Cracked Dog Paws

Coconut oil can be helpful for cracked paws and is a non-invasive solution most people have at home. Might be used in conjunction with apple cider vinegar.

Coconut oil is believed to be antimicrobial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial.

Furthermore, coconut oil promotes wound healing and soothes cracked dog paws.

Especially in the winter months, I like to rub my dog’s paws with a good amount of coconut oil to counteract dry paw pads.

Try to keep your dog from licking his paws as much as you can.

You usually don’t need to worry about ingestion, coconut oil can even be beneficial for your dog’s overall health.

You can also use my easy dog paw moisturizer solutions.

Dog Paw Cleaner Solution

For a simple paw cleaning spray, combine equal parts of water and vinegar and fill it into a spray bottle. For cracked and inflamed paws, try an oatmeal bath by adding blended oats to the bathtub.

Massage the oatmeal into your dog’s paws and let them soak for at least 10 minutes. You can also add a few teaspoons of olive or coconut oil to the mixture.

Make sure to have any at-home solutions approved by your vet.

Is It OK to Wash Dog Paws Every Day?

Generally, it is okay to wash your dog’s paws every day. It greatly depends on the types of activity you are doing with your dog.

Hiking through forests will require more cleaning than let’s say a walk through the neighborhood.

It should be sufficient to check and clean the paws every week. However, if your dog has walked in puddles, salt, or muddy ground, he will need extra sessions.

Pesticides or fertilizer shouldn’t be left on your dog’s paws, so make sure to avoid them in your yard and during walks.

If your dog is prone to allergies, rinsing them with water will keep the allergens at bay.

The paws should also be cleaned after a summer walk in boots.

Dogs only produce sweat around the areas that are not covered with fur which are the nose and paw pads.

Drying them after a walk can be helpful to get rid of moisture, especially after a hot day.

How To Clean Dog Paws Before Coming Inside

If you really want to prevent any debris from entering your house, keep a good towel and the right cleaning solutions by your door or consider setting up a cleaning station outside.

I like to keep a really absorbent towel right beside the door, so I can completely dry her off before coming inside.

If possible, you can also hose off any dirt or keep a bucket full of water on the porch.

You can also keep any required products such as cleaning mit or paw cleaner outside in a box. Don’t forget to buy a highly absorbent doormat which will save you a lot of hassle.

How to Clean a Dog Paw Wound

Unfortunately, paw pad wounds are quite common especially if they are regularly exposed to rough terrain.

Cleaning up the wound properly is essential to ensure an optimal healing process and to prevent any infections.

Avoid wrapping too tightly, as the bandage could cut off blood circulation.

Even the smallest cuts should be examined and treated. First, clean the wound with water and carefully remove any small foreign objects if your dog will allow it (if not, consult your vet).

Gently dry off the area with a clean towel and apply a small amount of pet antiseptic spray.

Place a pad directly on the wound and secured it with bandages. To prevent the bandage from falling off, wrap it all the way up to the next joint.

Encourage your dog to let the affected paw rest and prevent any licking, nipping, or biting.

On walks, you can protect the paw with one of the aforementioned dog booties that will keep away bacteria and dirt. Keep the bandage dry and change it if it has soaked up moisture.

Minor injuries can be treated at home, however, deep cuts and heavy bleeding should be checked by a veterinarian.

Fun Fact: Dog Paws Are Cleaner Than Human Shoes

This study on the cleanliness of doggy paws tested 25 assistance and 25 pet dogs as well as their 50 respective owners after a 15-30 min walk.

Oddly enough, 81% of the assistance dogs have been denied access to hospitals, citing hygiene as the main reason.

This is the result:

Dog paws were more often negative for Enterobacteriaceae compared to shoe soles (…) and also had significantly lower bacterial counts (…)

MDPI – Study on the Contamination of Assistance Dogs’ Paws

Huh, dog paws aren’t as dirty as some people might’ve thought.

Or at least they shouldn’t be and proper hygiene will ensure that your pet’s paws will stay clean and healthy.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Janice Miller

Thursday 1st of October 2020

I also keep an old plastic pint sized yogurt container or something that size with water in it by the door to submerge my dogs feet and flush out dirt, check for thorns, seeds, etc trapped in paws. I keep a clean rag to dry off feet before dog come in the house. Also, if you have allergies or hike in dusty areas, a very damp- almost soppy- toweling all over your dog after its walk is a good way to keep pollen, dust, etc. off your dogs coat and keeps them clean, too! It also keeps your house very clean.


Tuesday 6th of October 2020

Thanks for the input, Janice! Great how you're taking care of your dog and like you said, it also keeps the house clean :).

Cheers, Danielle

Shari Meier

Saturday 19th of September 2020

In the fall, our cedar trees drop sap and the dogs paws are full of it each and every time they go out so what's the best way to clean them?


Thursday 24th of September 2020

Hi Shari, tree sap can be very sticky so I would recommend a two-step cleaning technique. First you can massage in a bit of olive oil to loosen up the goo-like texture and then you can wash out the rest with a mild pet-friendly shampoo.

Isabella Ray

Friday 31st of July 2020

Apple cider vinagar was game changer for me and my dog! I also use it for flea and tick repellent and to clean her ears. Let me know if you have any more apple cider vinegar hacks :)

John Ziarnick

Sunday 21st of March 2021

How is it applied for fleas and tics and how long does it keep them away? I live in the Andes of Peru and have 3 dogs, a street dog we picked up in the city, a Great Dane we took as a puppy, and now a 4.5 month old Rottweiler. They all get tics an fleas constantly. They have a medicine that is put on the neck that works for around 3 weeks that says it is good for a month. It is just ok, and only for maybe 3 weeks at best. It is also very expensive at just over $120.00 per month, when we can get it. Thank you. John


Friday 31st of July 2020

Hi Isabella,

seems like you already know the tips but I've got articles where you'll find more than vinegar as flea repellents and a blog post about natural ear infection home remedies will drop on Monday :). Apple cider vinegar is great to clean them and to get rid of mites, but there are other ways to flush/dry the ear and to get rid of a nasty infection.

Coconut oil is an overall winner, I've also used it for dry dog skin in the past (which stopped as soon as my Rottie got on her raw diet with a really shiny coat and all).

Stay safe with your pup, Danielle