Fun in the Snow: Paw Care for Canines

by DFS-Pet-Blog on February 2, 2015

Winter. It’s a cold, hard fact, especially up here in “bitter-cold-ville,” where winter can be over six months long. But getting up and out is just as important in winter as in summer — even more so, since it takes unwavering motivation to go outside when the weather is chilly.

Pet parents must use their creativity to plan exercise for themselves and their canine companions in cold weather, and keep their precious pet’s paws protected as much as possible in the process. 

Personally, even though I should be used to the chill of Rhinelander, 2013-2014 winter’s constant below-zero temperatures for nearly six months nearly did me in. Barb-Blog5-web

I stayed inside most of the time and Rudder, my sweet, active Newfoundland, stared at me from the door. Luckily, he had a fenced-in yard in which to run around, but we all know that to a dog, it’s just not the same as a companionable walk or hike.

This winter, I was determined not to get the same sad look (and the guilt that went with it!), so I set out to try a winter sport that my dog could do with me.

Winter hiking is fine before it ices up. Cross-country skiing is great for a winter sport and you can even skijor with your dog (skijoring is when your dog wears a harness and pulls you on skis).

The problem with those sports for me is twofold: My cross-country ski-level is not up to par, and, in this area dogs aren’t often allowed on groomed ski trails. I decided to go with snowshoeing. I thought, why slip-slide on ice when you can put on snowshoes? Everyone looks like Frankenstein’s monster while snowshoeing, and as snowshoers say, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.”


Rudder resting after a long snowshoeing trek.

I found I loved the sport and so did Rudder. He is well-trained off-leash and there are plenty of woods and frozen lakes around to explore. It seemed like the perfect way to let my dog get much-needed exercise and get some myself.

Until I discovered my dog was stopping every once in a while to bite his feet. I inspected and found something I had seen in the past winters, but forgotten: ice balls were forming, making every step painful for him. I pulled them off the best I could and when I got home, I looked through my pet cupboard (yes, I have a special pantry just for pet items!) for a solution.

Get a gob of it right into the paw pad area for very snowy and icy conditions.

Get a gob of it right into the paw pad area for very snowy and icy conditions.

Aha! I found an old jar of Musher’s Secret in the back of the cupboard and remembered I had success with that product in the past.

Musher’s Secret is an all-natural wax product that protects paws and does not allow snow and ice to build up between a dog’s toes. It creates a breathable barrier that allows paws to perspire. Perspiration through the paws is one of the few ways dogs get rid of excess heat.

The “secret” to Musher’s Secret is to smear a gob of it right up into the toes of my web-footed buddy. It acts like Teflon to ensure snow and ice slip off before they can build up and cause painful paws. It has made a world of difference in snowy weather for Rudder. No more stopping to bite at paws on the trail. A bonus is that it keeps paw pads soft and it is also great for your hands!

After Musher's Secret, Rudder is gamboling about in the snow like a little goat, no longer tied down by painful feet.

After Musher's Secret, Rudder is gamboling about in the snow like a little goat, no longer tied down by painful feet.

So now, Rudder is all set to join me for outdoor exercise, no matter what season it is. I’ve also compiled a list of other ways to care for your dog’s paws in icy conditions:

Top 5 ways to keep your pup’s feet healthy and ice-free

  1. Keep long hair short on feet. Less hair means less chance of snow and ice being caught between toes.
  2. Use boots if your dog will tolerate them.
  3. If you use salt on your sidewalks, try pet-safe brands like Ice Melt Down.
  4. Use paw wipes at the door or on your walk
  5. Musher’s Secret is my favorite for a dog who does not keep boots on.

Do you have any tips for keeping your pet’s paws healthy in the winter weather, or any winter canine exercise stories? We’d love to hear them.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin Slayton February 3, 2015 at 12:32 am

Hi Barb,
My name is Robin Slayton and I am writing to you because your name came when I was looking up Joyce Ryan. Through the magic of google a post from your blog came up. The number I have for Joyce is no longer in service. I got a puppy in 2003 from Joyce and kept in touch for several years, mostly me sending her updates on that puppy, Atticus. That boy was one of the most special dogs I’ve ever had or known. I hear the term “heart dog” a lot and that certainly fit how I felt about my boy. I lost Atty on May 26, 2014. So, that brings me to my quest to find Joyce. I so hope she is well. It would be great if she were still breeding, but if nothing else, I trust her knowledge and experience breeding and would love to talk to her and get her advice in possibly finding a new puppy. There will never be another Atty, but there’s just something about the breed that I just can’t imagine never having another one. I’ve been waiting, because I knew I really just wanted my boy back(may even still be there) and that wouldn’t be fair to a new baby. But I know I want one eventually and may have to wait. Joyce taught me the difference between an excellent breeder who is in it for the love and betterment of the breed and a byb. And, I’d just love to talk to her again and let her know Atticus(who was from her x litter had made to 10.5 and see how she’s doing. I apologize for the strange and rambling note but was excited to find your blog, your connection to Joyce and read about Rudder! What a beautiful boy!

Robin Slayton February 3, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Barb, I found your blog while searching for Joyce Ryan. Rudder is a gorgeous boy! My boy Atticus also came from Hugybears. He was from her X litter in 2003. I lost him May 26, 2014. I’ve heard the term heart dog frequently and it certainly applies here. I kept in touch with Joyce for several years, but the number I have for her no longer is in service. I so hope she is doing well. While I realize she may no longer be breeding, I would still love to get in touch with her. She taught me the difference between a breeder who breeds for the health, betterment, and love of the breed and a byb or worse. I’ve been devasted by the loss of Atty. I believe I have loved all my dogs the same there is just that special connection that happens with some, that makes there loss even more difficult to bare. He was just that boy. I have to say looking at pictures of yours, Atticus really looked a lot like Rudder. Wonder if they were related? Anyway, I apologize for rambling on! If you know how to get in touch with Joyce I’d really appreciate it or even just passing my info on to her. Thank you, Robin Slayton
I look forward to reading more of your blogs and more about Rudder!

Barb S. February 10, 2015 at 10:06 am

Hi Robin,

I apologize that it’s taken me a little while to get back to you. I was out of town, but am back now.

I’m so sorry to hear about your loss of Atticus. It is so difficult to lose any dog, but the ones that get *way* into our hearts hit the very hardest.

Rudder is indeed from Hugybear, as were my other two that passed, Baci and Dulse. Rudder is from her A litter (after Atticus) and Baci and Dulse were from her T litter (before Atticus). They are/were indeed wonderful, healthy Newfs with lovely temperaments. I would love to see a photo of Atticus, if you have one.

I will gladly pass your info on to Joyce.

Take care, Robin.


Robin Slayton February 10, 2015 at 11:42 pm

Barb, Thank you so much for getting back to me and being willing to pass on my info to Joyce. I really appreciate that! It’s so nice to speak with someone who has that connection(distant that it may be!) to Atticus. To someone who gets it-he has definitely left what feels an “unfillable” hole in my heart. I remember when I first was connected to Joyce, I really didn’t get how someone else could pick “my puppy”! It was also my first experience with co-ownership, wasn’t thrilled about that either!! Funny to look back now, how she could pick “the perfect boy” for me, I’ll never know, but she definitely has the magic! I could go on forever about him, but won’t bore you any more! For some reason, I can’t figure out how to get a picture on here, I’d love to show him off and see if you see the resemblance that I did with Rudder! Will get my daughter to help, so sad how inept I can be with anything tech!
Thank you again! Hope I’ll get to speak with Joyce soon. Y’all stay warm, not sure how, but hope your winter eases soon, sounds like y’all are having a rough one! Robin

Barb S February 20, 2015 at 9:06 am

Hi again, Robin. You’re very welcome. I sent Joyce a copy of this post and your kind words.

Yes, I definitely understand how pet parents have an unbreakable bond with their pets. And through all of the dogs, cats, and birds I’ve had, there has always been some sort of caring bond. So glad to hear from another pet lover!


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