Muddy Paws? Teach Your Dog to Wipe His Feet!

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I love everything about spring. Well, except for one thing—the muddy paws! Living in a house with predominantly white floors, and with dogs that are particularly fond of the furniture, I am diligent about wiping my pets’ paws after they come in from the backyard. And with two dogs, one that is almost fifteen and another that is obsessed with chasing squirrels, that chore can take up a good portion of my day! So when I saw this tip in Pamela Dennison’s new book Civilizing the City Dog, I just had to share. It’s a helpful exercise for dogs that don’t like their feet touched, as well as useful for those of us who don’t have mudrooms—and prefer to keep it that way!

Wipe Your Feet

Muddy paw prints on floor

“Place a towel on the floor and while your dog is watching, put some very smelly treats underneath. (If your dog is more interested in toys than food, place a toy underneath the towel instead of treats.) Most dogs will sniff the towel trying to find the treats. If your dog doesn’t, tap the towel with your finger and ask him to “find it.” Click and treat for sniffing, dropping treat on the towel. Continue to do this for a minute or so. Even if he is biting the towel, click and treat the first few times. You want him to be very interested in the towel. Then stop clicking and see if he will start to paw the towel in an attempt to get the treats. Any type of paw movement gets a click and treat. You should start to see your dog paw the towel more frequently and with more intensity. One he is pawing it on a regular basis, you can name it ‘wipe your feet’ as it is happening. Usually after another minute or two, you can start to say your cue a split second before he is about to paw the towel. To make this behavior of ’pawing’ even more useful, get a piece of plywood and glue the coarsest sandpaper you can find onto it. Place it on the floor and ask your dog to ‘wipe your feet.’ Voilà! Instant nail grinding! This is especially useful if you have a dog that will not allow his feet to be touched.”

How do you deal with your pets tracking mud in the house?

About the author

Julie Gordon is the Content & Communications Manager at Karen Pryor Clicker Training. She oversees editorial development and content management for the company’s websites, and regularly contributes articles and blogs.

paw wiping

I get my dogs to wipe their muddy feet by having them turn in circles on the rubber-backed rug in front of the door. It doesn't get all the mud off, but it knocks it down to an almost acceptable level. Be careful if you try to get a dog to "wipe its feet" on the coarse sandpaper board. If the dog doesn't have its claws extended and its pads lifted, the sandpaper will tear up the pads instead of the nails. Go slow when training on the sandpaper board--if the dog gets overzealous about clawing, it can sand right down into its own nail quicks really fast.