Muddy Paw Syndrome (Teaching Your Dog to Wipe his Paws)
I think whenever anyone has a problem with something they denounce it a “syndrome” so I decry this month and probably several more to come “muddy paw syndrome” month.
I live in VA and today was the first day we have really gotten snow in almost 2 years.
I am from Wyoming and lived a couple of years in Green Bay Wisconsin so unless you can’t see or find your car… it’s not snow to me.
Snow in VA is a couple of flakes and maybe a skiff covering the ground for an hour or two.
I miss snow.
Snow also usually means that the ground is pretty well frozen, and if you are going to have precipitation you might as well have frozen ground.
Wet ground leads to mud.
Mud leads to muddy feet/paws and if you have multiple dogs it leads to muddy faces, shoulders, ears, tails and any other body part you can name.
And, I hate muddy… stuff. Especially muddy stuff that I normally kiss.
It adds to muddy furniture and floors and everything else I can think of; and with 3 dogs I spend an awful lot of time vacuuming, sweeping and mopping as it is! Wanna teach your dog to wipe his own feet?
You Teach Your Children To Wipe Their Feet or Take off Their Shoes… Why Not Your Dog?
Sounds complicated doesn’t it?
IT IS….. if you don’t use a clicker!
If you have not embraced clicker training you are forced to do what people have been doing for hundreds of years… either dealing with dirty, stinky things, OR wiping your dog’s feet by yourself.
Lets face it; neither of these are ideal!
Who likes to grab a smelly wet dog foot??
Not me! Plus I usually get a smattering of mud on my face or pants or shirt… not exactly a pretty picture!
So are you ready for some self-regulated wiping?
Seriously, if you are not clicking… you have to; there is no sense in even trying if your dog doesn’t live for the clicker and you haven’t taught clicker basics! For more on clicker training dog obedience basics click here.
Your dog must totally understand and you must both be proficient at clicker training before you attempt this move, because it can be complicated, otherwise.
The next thing to do is to play “Fun with a Box”; this game or skill or trick (whatever you want to call it) will teach your dog to use his feet and be rewarded for it which will make wiping them much, much more simple and I am all about simple!
So watch this video here on our dog obedience blog on fun with a box here and read the article, and have fun playing and clicking! It may take several sessions before you and your dog get it down, and if you are not clicker proficient it may take even longer!!
But be patient, good obedience is something that builds on itself and gets better and better.
- Your Dog
- A Leash (if you think your dog is liable to find something more exciting to do)
- Your Clicker
- Great Treats
- A LARGE Towel or Blanket
So your dog knows and loves the clicker. He has happily entertained himself with an empty box and is use to putting his feet in it and on it.
You should know that you don’t have to have muddy conditions to teach this behavior. It is actually better if you do this inside with no dirt or mud involved to begin to condition the behavior.
Now, put the towel or the blanket on the ground and wait.
If your dog puts a paw on the blanket click and treat. Continue clicking and treating as those feet go on that blanket or towel (I like a blanket at first because it is bigger and harder to miss).
Once he gets that idea down and understands you want his feet on the blanket you are going to have to change your criteria. Changing your criteria often causes frustration and then a gamut of other behaviors. To understand more about frustration and how it helps your dog obedience and clicker training click here for that article.
Frustration is crucial. Some trainers say they don’t like the term “frustration” they prefer Non Reinforcment Marker or No Reward Marker all of these things mean the dog no longer gets a reward for something that he once was reinforced for; and let’s face it, if you got paid for something over and over and over and then you no longer got paid for that… it would be a little frustrating. You would probably quit, but a dog wants to figure out why the behavior no longer works.
So he does other things, and it is important just to wait and see what he does.
Wait for him to scratch at the blanket/towel and when he does give him a JACKPOT (much bigger better treat).
Soon he will begin scratching reliably and you will be clicking and rewarding.
So then it is time to use that frustration or No Reward Marker (NRM) again and wait.
He will undoubtedly show you a number of new behaviors, maybe laying on the blanket or putting his head down, or sitting, perhaps barking. Ignore the behaviors you don’t want to see and DO NOT correct any behaviors unless they are aggressive or totally naughty.
He will probably now scratch vigorously and may circle around on the blanket/towel… THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT!!! Be sure to click and jackpot!!!
Dogs probably aren’t going to “wipe” their back feet. If you are really lucky you might be able to get him to kick those back feet, but this isn’t a typical dog behavior (except after they poop 😉
But if you can get him to do it long enough and circle around he will wipe those muddy feet himself; and you can reward with a cookie!
Don ‘t just do this on wet muddy days, get him use to doing it all or most of the time or you will end up with a dog running willy nilly through the house before he has a chance to wipe those dirty stinky paws!!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.