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Ah, there is nothing quite like taking your favorite four-legged friend for a nice walk in the woods. But, when the two of you get home and your pup's paws are covered in mud, the last thing you want is muddy paw tracks all through the house. If only you could teach your pup to wipe his paws before he goes into the house. After all, you wipe your feet, so why shouldn't he do the same thing?
The good news is that teaching this trick to your dog is really not that hard, it just takes time and patience. Oh, and of course you are going to need somewhere to go for walks where your pup is going to get his feet muddy. But, if you don't have a muddy yard or trail to walk down, you can still do so with dry feet, but he may not get the full concept down until he has muddy paws. One more thing you should be aware of is that your pup will only wipe his front paws, most dogs will not wipe their hind feet, but you may still be able to train them to.
The basic concept here is pretty simple, all you need to do is teach your dog to wipe his paws just like you do every time he comes into your house. Sounds pretty simple, but in reality, it can be more challenging than you might think. This is because wiping paws is not something that comes naturally to a dog. You should also realize that no matter how much wiping your pup does with his paws, they are not likely to come completely clean, you may still have to finish the job.
As you introduce your pup to this concept, you can introduce a simple command word such as "wipe your paws" or you can use a single word such as "wipe" or "paws". As with any type of training, be sure to use plenty of patience and avoid being angry at him when he gets it wrong. Be sure you have a healthy supply of your pup's favorite treats on hand at all times.
While waiting until you have a nice muddy day to start training your pup to wipe his paws, you can start working with him as soon as he is ready for training that goes beyond the basics. You should try to pick training times when no one else is around to distract him from what you are trying to teach him. At the same time, you should decide which door, front or back, you will be using for training and stick to it at first. This will help to avoid confusion and make the training process go far more smoothly. The idea is not to just teach your dog to wipe his paws but to make it fun as well.
The Towel Method
Gather your supplies
Gather up a towel you will be using for the first part of training and a supply of your pup's favorite treats.
Get set up
Place the towel on the floor, place a treat under it as far as you can reach, and cover the treat back up.
Find the treat
Tell your dog to "find the treat" and let him go. If he starts pawing at the towel, give him the treat and praise him.
Tell him to wipe his feet
As your pup paws at the towel, add in the command words "wipe your feet" or the command you have chosen. This will help him to make the association between the action you want with the command word you plan to use.
What about his rear paws?
You may be able to teach him this trick by holding a treat in front of his nose while he is on the towel and using it to make him spin in circles. You can use a second command like "Spin" to get him to do this. When he does, be sure to reward him with heaps of praise and a treat.
The On the Mat Method
Start with your pup standing
Start out with your pup standing on the doormat. Give him a treat if he stands still.
What if he leaves?
If he tries to leave the mat, encourage him to stay and treat him when he does.
When he moves
Sit back and watch his feet, if he moves them even a little, say "wipe" and give him a treat.
Keep it up
Keep repeating this process, it will help your pup to make the connection between moving his feet on the mat and getting a treat.
The rest of it
The rest of it is simply to keep repeating this process until your pup will wipe his feet on command any time you come in from a muddy walk or any other type of walk again. Be patient, this is going to take time.
The Under the Mat Method
Start with a doormat
If you don't already have a doormat, now is a good time to buy one and place it outside to the door you plan to use for training. Stick to one door at first as this will help cut down on any confusion.
Strong smells work better
Pick a treat that your pup really likes, preferably one with a strong odor, as this will make him work harder to find it.
Hide the treat
Have someone hold your pup where he cannot see you hide the treat. Hide it under one of the corners of the mat.
Walk up to the door
Walk your pup up to the door on his leash and let him smell around for the treat.
If he paws
If he paws at the mat, this is a good thing. While he is doing so, give the command, 'wipe'. Then give him a treat and plenty of praise. If he tries to lift the mat with his nose, step on it and make him start scratching at it with his paws again.
Repeat this process
Keep repeating this process until your pup will paw at the mat each time he comes to the door and you use the command word you have chosen. Be sure to use lots of praise and plenty of treats while you are working with him.
Written by PB Getz
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 10/24/2017, edited: 01/08/2021