Why Dogs Protect Their Paws

We humans take our feet and hands for granted unless they begin to ache. But consider what having feet and hands does for us. Feet give us mobility and balance. Hands enable us to hold items and other humans, protect ourselves, eat, clean ourselves and perform dozens of other tasks.

A dog’s paws aid them similarly. Their paws give them the ability to run freely, hunt and chase prey, dig holes to search out prey or other objects, escape from a dangerous situation, make a comfortable nesting spot, bury food, inspect and probe an area of interest and more.

Dogs have glands on their feet through which they perspire and leave a scent. After eliminating, they use their back paws to scratch dirt over the area leaving a sign for other 4-legged creatures.

The paw pad is thick and made up of fat and tissue that helps cushion the pounding they take, protecting joints and bones. The pad also provides some insulation from harsh conditions and give a dog some traction. A dog’s paws travel over different types of surfaces, many of them rough or hot or cold. Their toenails help them grip the surface as they walk or run.

The top of the dog’s foot contains nerve endings, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue. They can be very sensitive to touch.

While most dogs accept learning to “shake hands” without appearing upset, they view the nail clippers, files and scissors as instruments of torture. Although these tools really don’t hurt them, it’s the touching of their paws that bothers them.

Don’t force the issue when trimming your dogs nails or the hair between the toes. Start trimming your dog’s nails as early as possible in his/her life so that s/he becomes accustomed to the procedure. Use treats, pets and gentle words to make it a positive experience. Don’t be discouraged if you only manage a nail or two at a time. Take a rest and try again later or the following day.

Walking your dog daily on rough surfaces such as sidewalks also helps to keep nails trimmed.

One of my dogs who I’ve had since a pup, shakes hands happily and accepts nail trimming quietly. But the other two, whom I adopted when they were at least a year old each, are not even happy to shake hands although they will do anything for food. They also need lots of coaxing when having their nails trimmed. But it’s a necessary procedure that we hope they appreciate.

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