Abraded, raw or blistered pads are common problems during summer workouts and early bird seasons, and will shut down even hard-driving dogs. Hunting dogs that have been inactive for months, or those housed on soft surfaces, won't have pads tough enough to withstand extensive running, especially on hard, rough terrain.
Part of a gun dog's summer tune-up should involve toughening its feet. This is usually accomplished by incrementally increasing the amount of time a dog spends running and by slowly graduating it onto rougher ground. In other words, after allowing your dog months of being a couch potato, don't begin work on rugged surfaces like shale. Your dog's feet need to acclimate to various types of terrain before you can expect to productively run, train or hunt it for any length of time. Keep in mind that damaged pads, though usually not a serious long-term problem, require at least 1-2 weeks to heal. During that time, your dog is out of business.
Many hunters use one of the various types of pad tougheners sold by most pet or working-dog supply houses. These products are applied to a dog's pads daily for a month prior to serious “footwork” and can be used in conjunction with an incremental conditioning program.
Dogs with a tendency for pad problems, or those working in extremely harsh terrain, can wear boots to lessen discomfort or damage. If you intend to use boots, let your dog wear them around the house or in its kennel and acclimate to them before it heads to the field. During workouts, until you know your dog's feet have toughened, watch for limping or other signs of discomfort. A sure symptom of a footsore dog is one with all four feet in an uncharacteristic tiptoe stance. After each workout, check your dog's feet thoroughly for injuries or damage, however slight.