Winter paw protection for your hunting dog

Tony PetersonI often joke about my relationship with my golden retriever as being similar to a “Timmy and Lassie” situation. Not that I’m prone to falling down abandoned wells with the communication skills of my dog Lux existing as my only chance of survival. Instead, she’s my faithful companion on nearly all of my winter ramblings.

Until the last year and a half, these ramblings occurred nearly every day in search of deer sign, shed antlers, and a simple reprieve from being inside. However, since the birth of my twin daughters, free time has become a precious commodity. Aside from softening mid-sections in both dog and man, a side effect of far more sporadic winter adventures is that Lux’s paws can’t take as much abuse as they could before.

I’ve got a good friend who had his mother sew up doggie booties, which he applies with duct tape to Dakota before each winter foray. They last anywhere from five minutes to a few hours before they fall off or are ripped free.

While this is an option, I’ve opted to try to toughen up my dog’s paws through short trips into the outdoors. Rationing out the time she spends running through the snow and ice gives her the chance to build up tougher paws, without overkill at any one time.

This is not something a lot of us think about with our hunting dogs, but if you’re prone to occasionally taking your four-legged cohorts into the winter woods consider their running gear. Give them a chance to stop and chew the ice out from their pads, or offer them a gentle hand while being mindful of how sensitive their inner skin is. If you see blood in a track, it’s time to go home. Ditto if they start favoring certain paws, or spend far more time lying down than running.

The key is to follow your pooch’s lead and not push it to the point where they are in pain or obviously uncomfortable.

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