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How to Mud-Proof Your Dog This Fall

Fall brings with it some of our favorite things: beautiful foliage, cozy sweaters, and homemade apple pies. But fall also signals the onset of some less than pleasant things. Like mud. And leaves. And dirt. 

When the weather shifts to rain and slush, dog owners face a unique challenge: combating an endless siege of muddy paw prints that never seem to stop.

If you’re at your wits end, here’s how to deal with all the mud Fido is tracking into the house

Use a dog-approved door mat

Place an absorbent mat just outside your door to mop up some of the excess dirt and water on your dog’s paws before he enters the house. There are several mats on the market that are designed specifically for this purpose. Utilizing microfiber strands to trap dirt, these dog-friendly mats offer a simple solution to your muddy situation.

Set up a mud-control station at the door

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Get things under control with a paw-washing station. Make sure to gather your supplies ahead of time, so you’re ready to tackle those paws when the muddy season strikes!

You won’t need much: just grab a shallow pan or bucket of lukewarm water, a rag or scrub brush, and a towel for drying. Soak the rag in the water, and lift each paw to gently scrub away any dirt or debris. Once you’re done scrubbing, inspect your pup’s paws, and use a towel to dry them. Don’t forget to toss the dirty water—you don’t want your dog drinking it!

A simpler alternative is to keep a container of wipes by the door. You can purchase dog-specific wipes, but ordinary baby wipes work just as well—just make sure they’re alcohol-free. 

One more consideration: after a romp in the rain, a hair dryer goes a long way in keeping your dog comfy and warm. 

Condition your dog to tolerate having his feet touched

Just like humans, not all dogs are fond of having their feet touched. If your dog is hesitant to let you handle his paws, take it slow and build up his tolerance over time. 

World-renowned dog trainer and author, Victoria Stilwell, offers the following advice to Dogster:

  • First, place a towel on your lap and hold a treat above it. 
  • Once your dog steps onto the towel, reward him with the treat and praise. Soon, he’ll be comfortable with placing both paws on the towel. 
  • When your dog is OK with placing both paws on the towel, fold it over one of his paws.
  • When your dog is comfortable with the feeling of his paws being inside the towel, try wiping them—gently. Don’t forget the treats! Before you know it, your dog will learn to associate his paw-washing ritual with rewards. 

Master some basic commands

Instead of letting your pooch come barreling into the house immediately after his potty break, teach him to “sit” and “stay” on cue. Believe us, these simple commands will make the whole paw-wiping ordeal much more tolerable and headache-free.

Teach your dog to wipe his own paws

Get your dog to do the dirty work for you! Teaching your dog to “dig” into a towel or mat is an easy way to mud-proof your home this fall. 

  • With your dog watching, hide a favorite treat in a towel or mat near the door he typically uses.
  • When your dog sniffs or walks on the towel, reward him with praise and a treat, repeating the process several times. 
  • When your dog begins to associate the towel with treats, it’s time to stop rewarding. Most likely, he’ll start digging into the towel to get at the treat you’ve hidden (which is exactly what you want him to do).  Reward your dog for digging, and add a cue, such as “wipe” or “dig.”
  • Once he learns the command, you’ll be able to ask him to wipe his paws every time he comes into the house!

Give your dog a haircut

While you should never fully shave your dog when the temperature starts to dip, it’s a good idea to trim him up before the muddy season strikes. Dirt that clings to long hair can be tracked into your living room, and it can also contribute to painful matting.

During the high-shedding summer months, it’s easy to remember to groom our dogs. But once fall hits, we tend to neglect this important routine. Keep the hair on your dog’s paws and belly short to minimize the amount of dirt he picks up.

Use gentle products

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Since you’ll be washing your dog’s paws more often, it’s important to use products that won’t be harsh on his sensitive skin. Use gentle soap, or try a dry shampoo. A paw conditioner or moisturizer will help prevent chapped paw pads.

Equally important is resisting the urge to bathe your dog every other minute. It’s easy to get carried away with baths during the muddy season, but don’t overdo it. Frequent bathing can strip your dog’s skin of necessary oils, leaving him itchy and uncomfortable. 

Get your pup smelling fresh

There’s no mistaking the smell of wet dog. Banish this unpleasant odor by swiping a dryer sheet over your dog’s coat—it will get him smelling fresh in no time.

Try a dog-cleaning glove

A microfiber glove makes easy work of paw-washing time. And with so many options on the market, you’re sure to find one that suits your needs best.

Give dog booties a try

Aside from being adorable, dog booties can also help keep mud at bay. Look for washable boots that you can toss right into the washing machine after your dog comes in from a rousing romp around the yard. Booties have the added benefit of keeping your dog’s paws warm and dry during the colder months.

Keep in mind that not all dogs take to wearing booties. Use positive reinforcement and let your dog get used to them gradually.

Protect your furniture with blankets or sheets

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Washing a blanket is easy. A vintage sofa? Not so much. If you allow your dog on the furniture, throw some washable blankets or sheets over your beds and couches for protection. 

If the couch is off-limits and Fido is relegated to his own dog bed, make sure it’s one that’s easy to wash. Dog beds with removable covers are the simplest way to keep things clean. In a pinch, a thick towel placed over his bed is the next best thing.

Keep your car mud-free

Toss an old blanket in the backseat of your car to protect seats after a muddy trip to the dog park. It’s also a good idea to keep a stash of wipes in your car for particularly messy outings.

Get a quality vacuum cleaner

No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to keep your home entirely dirt-free. When your dog tracks mud into your house, your best bet is to wait until it dries and then vacuum it up. 

Having a dog can be a messy affair, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. A few muddy paw prints is a small price to pay for the love we share with our furry companions.