No matter how big the dog (Great Danes, we're looking at you), their paws couldn't be cuter … until they track a yard's worth of mud into your home or car. However, a clean floor isn't the only reason to clear away dirt and debris after outdoor adventures. Dirt, salt, gravel, and sand can be seriously irritating to paw pads and could lead to dryness and cracks.
There's also a lot more that can be hiding in between toes. "After long walks, examine the paw thoroughly including between toes and pads to look for burrs, debris, ticks, and injury that can be caused by rough terrain or extreme temperatures," says Bonnie Bragdon, DVM, MS and co-founder and president of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association. "Dogs with allergies will benefit from having paws wiped clean from microscopic allergens such as pollen."
That's where dog paw washers come in.
These grooming gadgets generally look like travel coffee mugs that are lined with bristles to basically create a portable dog paw washing station.
To use the dog paw washer, fill the cup with water, then place a paw inside. Depending on your dog's comfort level, you can then either agitate the cup or your dog's paw to make sure the brushes get every bit of dirt out. Afterwards, dump out the dirty water, disassemble the cup, and clean it.
Bristle materials matter, too. Most dog paw washers have silicone bristles that are flexible for comfort yet sturdy enough to contend with mud. Some have stiff nylon bristles, which are better for dogs with long coats or those who encounter seriously dirty situations.
Whether you opt for a dog paw washer cup, a spray bottle, brush, or towel, pay attention to areas in-between toes where irritants can hide. A little bit of paw-safe pet shampoo can help loosen mud—just make sure that it's completely rinsed out to prevent overdrying.
The most important step of cleaning your dog's paws, however, is actually after you're finished. "When cleaning paws, be sure to dry between toes and pads to prevent moisture build up, which can lead to infection with yeast and bacteria," Bragdon says.
With nearly 16,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this simple dog paw washer cup has silicone bristles that get the job done gently—and quickly. One reviewer, who has four dogs that frequently contend with New York City streets, said that it cleaned paws in a third of the time compared to using a towel. Available in six colors and three sizes, there’s a size and style that’ll work for any dog.
Shop now: Dexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Washer; $18, amazon.com
Yes, it does look a bit like a ridiculously oversized travel coffee mug. Yet the large dimensions and heavier weight (the medium is 1.47 pounds compared to the 10.93-ounce weight of the Dexas MudBuster) comes in handy, especially if you’re not as nimble. The heft keeps the dog paw washer cup steady on the ground or floor while you help your pup wash up.
Shop now: Paw Plunger (Medium) For Dogs, $23; chewy.com
This dog paw washer is a multitasker—the nubby top ring can be detached to use as a massaging brush. The 12-sided design of the cup ensures a no-slip grip, and the food-grade polypropylene gives you peace of mind should your pup suddenly decide this is their new favorite toy. The design is on the larger side, making it a better choice for larger pups.
Shop now: CHOOSEEN Dog Cleaner Upgrade 2-in-1 Dog Paw Cleaner, $16; amazon.com
A USB charging port gives on-the-go convenience to this automatic paw cleaner. Just put your dog’s paw inside, press the button, and the silicone bristles whoosh away dirt. The flexible silicone bristles are more widely spaced out than manual options, ensuring that the experience is a gentle one. Anxious dogs may need time to get comfortable with the unit, however, so start slow and remember to be patient.
Shop now: PetsBark Automatic Dog Paw Cleaner, $38; amazon.com
This 2-in-1 dog paw washing cup is the most lightweight option at 6.38 ounces, making this a good choice for hikers and gear minimalists. The all-silicone construction allows you to turn the cup bristle-side-out to create a mitt-style cleaning brush. The curved bottom means that it doesn’t quite stand upright on its own, so you’ll have to support the cup as you use it.
Shop now: Idepet Dog Paw Cleaner Cup, $13; amazon.com