The Pad Equation
Since I was comparatively young, I have been fascinated by the feet of dogs, especially the pads, of course since the evening my Uncle Roy and Uncle Pat surprised me with the information that dogs “sweat” through their pads.
“Not like horses and cows and most mammals like people”, Pat said, “a dog cools himself only by his lips, tongue, mouth…and his pads…”
All through my hunting days, and in watching thousands of dogs in many thousands of hours in all weather conditions and on every footing imaginable, this nagged at my mind.
Over the years, I began to believe that the reason some trainer-handlers won more consistently was impacted by the way the dogs’ feet were cared for.
I grew up with a grandfather who loved gamecocks, and knew how to condition them. He and old George Day would go into trances working with their roosters. They were very successful.
So was Paul Walker, a good friend and Hall of Fame trainer who was one of the maestros at conditioning…pointing dogs OR gamecocks.
But Paul presented a jolly rationale for the fact his animals were all in superb condition: “It’s all in the breedin’ Cuz !” he would laugh.
John S. Gates, another master of canine conditioning, taught me a lot of things. But he was never voluble about special care of his dogs’ feet and pads.
It certainly followed “as the night, the day” in my mind, that if conditioning was the most consistent presence in winning after breeding, or a coefficient with breeding, then the conditioning of the competitor’s feet and pads had to be the secret of great endurance performances.
And it was after I had reported my last trial that a dog trainer who had been a friend for decades told me that Clyde Morton “took a liking to me because he liked my foxhounds” and shared “the Morton secret of the three hour dog”.
At the time, knowing that Clyde named Ariel “Fred” after the greatest fox hound he ever owned, I just KNEW it was a secret about the care and improvement of pad endurance. The PAD EQUATION, my mind shouted.
Well, I just returned to the subject recently when two of my favorite amateur field trial enthusiasts wrote me about the way they approached conditioning a
Dr. Charles A. Hjerpe, of Davis, CA, detailed his schedule of preparation for his trek to Alberta and the ensuing field trial season every summer.
Kim Sampson, up in Utah, had a much less enthusiastic calendar, and wrote that she had to be very careful not to destroy Daisy on the cliffs and arroyos that abide in that high, Chukar-blessed country. Kim sent me photos expertly taken of the ground with her wide angle lens.
It looked like…No!..It IS like quarter-inch and larger cubes and hexagons of bottle glass.
“How, in HAIL,” I asked Kim, “do your dogs keep their pads? What do you do?”
And that is how this latter day “quest” began.
She told me that an old dog trainer, YEARS ago, (and Kim is not THAT old) gave her a recipe that she uses as both prophylaxis AND treatment. She has a greater knowledge about the construction, exquisite complexity of rejuvenation and the durability of a dog’s pads.
She would have to have for her Daisy and the pups to fly through that treacherous footing, finding birds and reaching on.
She sent me some prodigious videos of her pointers.
Her secret is a noxious half and half mixture of pine tar and CUT-HEAL®. Simple.
Well, when I told Charlie, this great veterinarian and teacher of veterinarians fairly SHRIEKED in an email that an old man named Jim Williams had demonstrated this stuff to him years ago, and convinced him it was efficacious, and that I must “get that secret formula”. So I sent it to him (with Kim’s permission).
Now, I am thinking, I cannot locate the beneficiary of Clyde Morton’s confidence, but I can “nose around”.
Only one dog trainer, Randy Patterson, openly and generously shared his “secret”: it was Tincture of Benzoin (available over the counter or on the Internet). Randy, like most dog trainers I have known, does not like boots any more than his gnawing dogs do, but he won one championship with boots on pure ice three or four years ago. He also uses ANCHOR BLUE LOTION®.
And that is what most dog trainers have always used, for all the years I watched them. But, they used it for EVERYTHING, not just protection and toughening of pads.
The tincture of benzoin, incidentally, is included in Anchor Blue Lotion. So Randy is double-toughening.
None of the preparations I mentin here do any damage at all to the eccrine glands that exude “perspiration”.
On the market for many years, HAPPY JACK Pad Kote® seems to have ALL the ingredients, plus two fungicides, Gentian Violet and brilliant green. I know Paul Walker used Happy Jack.
If you are shopping by ingredient for a commercial preparation, the ingredients should be these: Benzyl Alcohol (the same as Tincture of Benzoin), Gentian
Violet, and Tannic Acid. Acriflavine is another effective antiseptic ingredient that is good to have.
Aerosol sprays usually are weaker and less effective. I do not have the “green” prejudice against aerosols. But I did learn the first year S.C. Johnson made the skeeter repellent “OFF” that the liquid had 50% active ingredients and the spray had 10% active ingredients. It is the same with veterinary medications. DAUB instead of spray when you can.
I suppose the actions of the ingredients should be listed. Tincture of benzoin and tannic acid have been used for many years to toughen human athletes’
hands and feet as well as canine athletes’ pads. Gentian violet and brilliant green are fungicides. Jojoba oil and glycerine are soothers. Pine tar is a “holder” and fixative of sorts. Cut and Heal and some of the lotions also have antibacterial agents.
There is one lagniappe for this piece. I do NOT know the ingredients, but there is a waxy salve made in Canada named MUSHER’S SECRET® and I am as sure as I am sitting here that some savvy dog people beside the guys and gals at Iditarod have a store of it.
It is made of all “natural” waxes and emollients and allows (my obsessive-compulsive criterium) the pad to “breathe”. And—mirabile—it does not stain carpets and prevents “snowballing between the pads.
One last thing…Do not forget the dew claw pads. They are small, but can be a source of hidden pain and discomfort.
Thanks to Dr. Charles Hjerpe for the photo.