How to Protect Your Dog’s Paws in Winter: 12 Steps

Dogs are amazing creatures that bring a lot of joy into our lives. As the weather starts to cool down, it’s important to take some steps to protect your dog’s paws from the elements.

To protect your dog’s paws in winter you should first prep for winter by trimming long hair around the toes and keeping nails trimmed. Next, keep your dog’s core warm with coats and layers. Then, use paw protectors for small dogs and deep snow. You should also learn the signs of doggie frostbite and use petroleum jelly or paw balm before walks. Finally, clear the snow for your dog and try to avoid walking on ice-melting salts.

In this article, we will expand on the above advice and give you 12 tips on how to keep your pup’s feet warm and happy no matter what the weather.

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Step 1 – Prep For Winter – Trim Long Hair Around the Toes and Keep Nails Trimmed

As the weather cools down, take some time to trim the hair around your dog’s toes. This will help prevent ice and snow from building up between their toes and causing discomfort. You should also keep your dog’s nails trimmed to avoid any sharp edges that could catch on something and tear or accumulate snow and ice.

Step 2 – Keep Your Dog’s Core Warm with Coats and Layers

One of the best ways to protect your dog’s paws in winter is to keep their core temperature warm. This can be done by dressing them in coats or sweaters and using booties or socks when appropriate. Dogs with short fur may benefit from extra layers even on walks in mild weather.

Dogs with long fur generally won’t need as many layers, but you may still want to use booties or socks to protect their feet from the elements.

Ella sitting in panda sweater with Walkee Paws
Ella in her thinner panda sweater ready for a rainy fall walk.

ella with walkee paws ready for snow (1)

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Step 3 – Use Paw Protectors for Small Dogs and Deep Snow

If you live in an area with a lot of snow, you may want to invest in some paw protectors. These are essentially socks for your dog’s feet that can help keep their paws dry and warm. Paw protectors are especially helpful for small dogs or dogs with short fur who don’t have as much protection from the elements.

ella in walkee paws and black sweater (1)
Ella wearing a black polka dot hooded sweater and her Walkee Paws ready for a snowy bathroom break.
Ella in fun socks for winter (1)
Here’s a picture of Ella with some fun socks we got as a gift. Great for indoor winter wear but not so great outside – they come off in an instant!
Ella sitting in Bolivian coat with Walkee Paws
Ella in her thick Bolivian dog sweater wearing Walkee Paws

Personally, I use Walkee paws for my chihuahua mix, Ella. She doesn’t have the bulk body mass or long fur to keep her warm and she’s small enough that even 6 inches of snow becomes a real struggle for her. Plus when it’s super cold out and it takes her awhile to go the only thing that has made it possible was using Walkee Paws.

Now in all honesty she kind of walks like a robot in these things and doesn’t enjoy them at first but after a few minutes I’m always surprised how quickly she adapts. In no time at all she’s bounding through the snow. Plus all the other booties we’ve tried on her fall off. Walkee paws stretches over her back which keeps them on her feet where it’s needed.

I simply put on the Walkee Paws then her coats and she’s ready to go.

Here’s a quick video of Ella using her Walkee Paws in the snow:

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Step 4 – Learn the Signs of Doggie Frost Bite

Frostbite is a real risk for dogs in cold weather, so it’s important to learn the signs. Early signs of frostbite include pale or gray skin, firm skin, and/or pain when touched. If you suspect your dog has frostbite, warm their body slowly with blankets and contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Step 5 – Use Petroleum Jelly or Paw Balm Before Walks

To help prevent frostbite and cracked paw pads, you can apply a layer of petroleum jelly or paw balm to your dog’s paws before walks. This will create a barrier between their skin and the elements. Be sure to wipe off any excess before letting your dog inside as it can be slippery as well as pickup a lot of rocks and dirt from outside.

Step 6 – Clear the Snow for Your Dog (I just use my feet)

When it’s snowing, take a few minutes to clear an area for your dog to do their business. This will help prevent them from having to walk through deep snow and will make it easier for them to find a spot to go. You can either use a shovel or simply kick the snow out of the way with your feet.

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Step 7 – Try To Avoid Walking On Ice-Melting Salts

If you live in an area where ice-melting salts are used, try to avoid walking your dog on them. These chemicals can be harsh on your dog’s paws and may cause irritation or even burns. If you must walk on them, be sure to wipe your dog’s paws down with a damp cloth as soon as possible afterwards.

Step 8 – Keep Walks Short in Extreme Weather

In extreme weather conditions, it’s best to keep walks short. This will help prevent your dog from getting too cold or wet and will make it easier for them to stay warm. If you can’t avoid being out in the elements for long periods of time, consider investing in a doggie coat and paw pads.

Step 9 – Avoid Deep Snow If You Can (Especially for Small Dogs)

Deep snow can be a struggle for dogs, especially small breeds. If you can, try to avoid walking in deep snow. If you must walk in it cut a path for them and keep the walk short.

Step 10 – Monitor for and Remove Snow Chunks Between the Toes

When walking in the snow, your dog’s fur will inevitably pick up some snow chunks, especially when you have wet, sticky conditions (the kind that’s perfect for building snowmen). These can be uncomfortable and even painful for your dog if they get them stuck between their toes. Be sure to monitor for snow chunks and remove them regularly as you walk.

Step 11 – Always Wipe Your Dog’s Paws When You Get Back Inside

Be sure to wipe your dog’s paws down with a damp cloth when you get back inside. This will help remove any snow, salt, or other chemicals that may be on their paws. It’s also a good time to check for any signs of irritation or injury.

Step 12 – Use Pet-Safe Non-Toxic Ice-Melts on Your Sidewalks and Driveway

If you use ice-melting products on your sidewalks or driveway, be sure to use ones that are pet-safe and non-toxic. These products will help prevent your dog’s paws from coming into contact with harsh chemicals.

There you have it, a simple 12 step guide to protecting your dog’s paws in winter. By following these steps, you can help ensure your dog’s paws stay healthy and happy all season long.


Will Snow Hurt My Dog’s Paws?

No, snow itself will not hurt your dog’s paws. However, if it is deep enough, it can be difficult for them to walk through and they may end up with snow chunks stuck between their toes.

Prolonged snow exposure can also lead to frostbite, so it’s best to keep walks short and avoid deep snow if possible.

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Can I Put Booties on My Dog’s Paws?

Yes, you can put booties on your dog’s paws. However, they may not be necessary if you follow the other steps in this guide.

Only use booties if your dog is having difficulty walking in the snow or if you live in an area with a lot of ice-melting chemicals. Be sure to get booties that fit well and are comfortable for your dog to wear.

We recommend Walkee Paws – They stay on even if your dog doesn’t want them to!


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How Often Should I Wipe My Dog’s Paws?

You should wipe your dog’s paws down after every walk. You should also check their paws regularly on long walks for debris and snow balls and remove these as you go.

What Are Some Signs That My Dog’s Paws Are Getting Too Cold?

Some signs that your dog’s paws are getting too cold include: redness, swelling, cracked paw pads, and bleeding. If you notice any of these signs, bring your dog inside and warm their paws slowly in cool water. Then contact your vet for further advice and to be sure they don’t need any other help.

What Should I Do If My Dog Gets Frostbite?

If you think your dog has frostbite, warm their body slowly with a blanket and bring them to the vet immediately. Frostbite is a serious condition and can lead to tissue death if not treated quickly and properly.

Can Big Dogs Handle Snow without Paw Protectors?

Yes, big dogs can usually handle snow without paw protectors. Sled dogs have been running through snow for literally thousands of years without a problem (source). However, if you live in an area with a lot of ice-melting chemicals, it’s best to use booties or paw pads to avoid irritation.

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How Long Can Dogs Stay Outside in the Snow?

How long a dog can stay in the snow depends on the size of your dog, the thickness of their fur, and the temperature. Smaller dogs with thin fur will not be able to stay in the cold as long as larger dogs with thick fur.

In general, it’s best to keep walks short in cold weather and bring your dog inside if they seem to be getting too cold. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and bring them inside sooner rather than later.