Your Agility Dog’s Feet are a Real Asset
Our dogs are highly adaptive animals designed with amazing feet that can take a lot of abuse, if acclimated. Dogs that spend a lot of time outside on harsh surfaces will develop pads that are tough as nails and are able to walk in snow, water and hot sand. The same is not true for dogs that spend most of their time in the house and grassy yards. And BOTH need extra TLC with the amount of abuse they receive working hard on tough surfaces while running dog agility.
Running in horse arenas can have a real toll on dogs not accustomed to the abrasive qualities of these sandy areas. Some trial equipment may use sand finishes on contact obstacles that can sand down pads to a highly sensitive level in a few runs. Damp, muddy and slippery surfaces can soften and then sore feet as well. It is your job to see that your dog is not only protected at a trial, but prepared before setting foot in an agility arena.
Keeping the hair on your dog’s feet trimmed will keep them from collecting dirt, mud and foreign objects between the toes and pads that can lead to sores and injuries. Yes, it does protect a dog’s pads in the winter on cold surfaces, but it can also collect snow balls that can cause them injury.
You can get your dog acclimated to rough surfaces, slowly, by taking them to parks, beaches or rocky areas. You don’t want to sore them, just take them for walks and include varied grounds during parts of your walks. DO NOT take your dog on hot surfaces such as asphalt or cement. This will not only burn their pads but could cause your dog to get over heated as the feet are a major way for dog’s to cool.
Proper care of the feet before competition should include monitoring and treating dry pads with either store bought products or the use of coconut oil. Be sure to dry your dog’s feet after working in damp conditions which could include an early morning walk in dew covered grass. Use boots when temperatures are extreme, though they cannot be used in an agility class due to safety hazards.
If you do all that you can and find your dog still manages to get a cut or abrasions on their pads, try spray bandage, liquid band-aid or even super glue to close a cut. Keep checking their feet as the spray/liquid band-aid will wear off. You can even put booties on, if your dog will leave them on, until the sores are better.
Just remember your team’s success rides heavily on your dog’s feet as there is no dog agility once your dog becomes foot sore.