Autumn favors long walks with the dog in forests and fields. Unfortunately, after such a walk, our pet’s paws and abdomen are usually covered with a thick layer of mud. If we do not want it to be in our home, we must thoroughly wash and wipe the dog after a walk. It is also very important in winter when the pavements are sprinkled with salt. If we do not want her to eat painfully on the dog’s paws, we have to wash and wipe them. Well, with this rubbing the paws in many dogs there is a big problem.
Wiping your paws is not normal for dogs. In nature, no one wipes mud from wild dogs. Therefore, suddenly grabbing the dog’s paws after a walk and trying to rub them forcibly is not the best idea. By doing this, your pooch will at least be surprised by your behavior. In extreme cases, fear and even aggression may also appear. If you want your dog to easily handle rubbing his paws, you must first get him used to this activity.
Many dogs also have quite sensitive paws and don’t like being touched by humans. Perhaps it is also related to the fact that in nature a dog with injured paws cannot get food and is basically doomed to death. If your pooch does not like to lick his paw, even in the form of a trick, he takes it at the last minute so that you do not touch it, stiffens, moves away from you, looks away, licks his nose, yawns, blinks his eyes or shows other signs of stress or threatening signals. like staring at you, snarling etc. you will definitely have to spend more time getting your dog used to wiping his paws.
The sooner we start getting your dog used to wiping his paws, the better. This treatment can be performed in the form of play with small puppies. Don’t wait until fall or winter to get your dog used to wiping his paws. The entire process may take a day or two, but it may also take longer. It is very important to give your dog as much time as he needs. You may find that you do not manage to wipe each paw thoroughly during the first sessions, and this is normal. Therefore, it is best to start getting used to it when it is sunny, dry and it is not necessary to wipe the dog’s paws.
The whole process is best broken down into as small steps as necessary for your dog. Only when the pooch accepts one stage, we move on to the next. You cannot rush or force anything here. We want to gain the dog’s trust and make him feel calm and safe while wiping his paws.
It is worth getting your dog used to wiping his paws by getting him used to just touching them. This is the first, necessary step not only when washing or wiping the paws, but also, for example, when trimming a dog’s claws. It is best to start getting your dog used to touching his paws when he is rushing, tired, full, and when all his basic needs are met. We can gently reach lower and lower towards the fingers by stroking the dog’s shoulder blade or thigh. It is important that our touch is calm and pleasant for the dog. We do not grasp his paw by force, but we also do not tickle him too softly. During such stroking, we praise the dog with a calm voice. You can also reward him with a treat for his calm behavior. Over time, the dog will allow us to touch not only his shoulder blades or thighs, but also knees, elbows, and finally fingers and claws. As soon as your dog starts sending you anxious signals, take a short break. Give him a rest and return to a more pleasant touch.
Once your dog is letting them touch its paws, it can begin to get used to it to pick them up. We put a hand on the dog’s shoulder and slide down slowly. Many dogs don’t like to be grabbed by their fingers, so it’s better to grab a little higher. Then we slightly raise the dog’s paw to a small height, praise, reward and put the paw back on the floor. We do the same with the hind legs. We put a hand on the thigh, slide down, grab the metatarsus and gently lift the hind leg. We praise the dog and reward it for its calm behavior. If the pooch is not behaving calmly, we go back to the previous stage, i.e. getting him used to the touch.
When lifting the dog’s paws up, it is worth paying attention not to bend them in an unnatural, uncomfortable way for the dog. It is often more convenient for us to wipe the dog’s paw when we raise it higher or when we move it closer to each other. However, it is worth taking into account the fact that the dog may have problems with maintaining balance in an unnatural position for him. We should also make sure that the dog stands on a stable, non-slippery surface when lifting the paws. If your floor is slippery, it is a good idea to put a towel or non-slip mat over it.
I like to put a password to picking dogs’ paws. This is not a formal command like “give a paw”, but rather a message to the dog that I will be lifting its paw up. Thanks to this, the pooch knows what awaits him and has time to prepare for this activity. Before lifting the first paw, I always say “first paw,” before lifting the second paw, “second paw,” etc. After saying these words, I give the dog a moment to prepare to raise a particular paw. I always try to pick them up in the same order. Thanks to this, the dog knows what will happen and after some time it starts giving me another paw. It is worth introducing yourself such a ritual after each walk. This will give the dog a more predictable sense of what will happen and make the dog feel more confident in this situation.
The next step in getting your dog used to wiping his paws should be teaching him to touch the towel with his paws. Thanks to this game, your pooch will not only not be afraid of the towel, but will also positively associate it. To teach your dog to touch a towel with his paws, simply place the treat on the ground and cover it with the towel. Then ask the pooch to look for the hidden treat. As soon as his paw touches the towel, you can mark it with a clicker or a sonorous word “yes” and give the dog an additional reward.
If your pooch knows the command “give a paw” you can take advantage of it. Take the towel in your hand and ask the dog to give you the paw by placing it on the towel. Many dogs do this exercise much more willingly than the classic handing of a paw to an empty human hand. Unfortunately, when training with a dog to pass the paw, we often have a tendency to squeeze the dog’s fingers and wave the entire paw, which dogs usually do not like very much. As soon as the pooch puts his paw on the towel by himself, praise him and give him a treat.
A sense of security and control, especially in a stressful situation, is extremely important not only for dogs, but also for us. Just think how you feel at the dentist when you trust him that he does not want to hurt you and you know that you can ask for a short break in tooth drilling at any time. How would you feel if you weren’t sure the dentist wouldn’t hurt you, and if all your requests for a break while drilling were ignored? It is exactly the same for a dog that does not trust a human being and whose paws are held down or lifted forcibly. Therefore, watch your dog’s behavior. Learn to read the first signs of stress and respond accordingly.
Body language is very important when wiping our paws. It is definitely better to sit on the floor or crouch and invite the dog to come to us than to chase him with a towel or bend over him. Bending over a dog is especially stressful for puppies and little dogs. I would also be afraid if a giant several times bigger than me wanted to grab my leg and lift it up. The dog’s approach to you is the first sign that it is ready to wipe its paws. What if, despite the encouragement, the dog refuses to approach you? In such a situation, it is worth getting back to getting him used to the touch and lifting his paws.
However, when the pooch comes up, you can reach out with a towel and say, for example, “first paw, punch”. If the pooch has been taught this slogan well beforehand, he knows that we expect a paw. The towel with our slogan is therefore an invitation for the dog to wipe its paws. Then we wait for the dog to give us the paw. This is the moment when we give him the opportunity to choose. He can give us a paw and receive a lot of praise and treats, or not give us this paw. Let us respect the choice of the dog here. If, for some reason, he is not yet ready to give us a paw, that’s too bad. We’ll try next time. I think now you can see why it is worth starting the whole process when it is dry and when it is not necessary to wipe your dog’s paws.
Training in which we give the dog the opportunity to choose a given behavior takes more time than force action. However, by force wiping a dog’s paws against his will makes the dog stressful and loses his trust in us. So with time he will avoid this unpleasant situation more and more. When all calming and threatening signals are ignored by the handler, the dog will eventually resort to aggressive behavior. At best, we’ll have to deal with wiping the dog’s paws all our lives, and at worst we’ll be bitten by it. However, in the case of training, in which we give the dog the opportunity to choose and have greater control of the whole situation, we build a relationship based on understanding and trust. Such a relationship will translate into the dog’s behavior not only when wiping its paws, but also in other stressful situations.