Teaching "Wipe Your Paws"- Hind Paw EditionAug 22, 2022
If you have a dog who hates having their paws touched, consider training them to wipe their own paws! In the previous blog, I talk about how to start training your dog to wipe their front paws. This week, I focus on training a dog to wipe their rear paws.
If you're looking for paw cleaning strategies that require little or no training, check out this blog on no-touch paw cleaning.
Getting Hind Paw-Wiping Behavior Started
Getting a dog to wipe their hind paws is usually a little trickier than teaching front paw wiping. Here are some ways to get started:
- Reinforce ground scratching: Some dogs kick their back legs and scratch the ground after eliminating. If your dog does this, and you consistently reward the behavior with a treat, hind paw scratching might increase in frequency and start occurring in contexts other than right after elimination. Then you can put it on cue and transfer the behavior to whatever setting you want to use it in.
This isn't my favorite approach to teaching hind paw wiping, because catching and reinforcing the behavior, then transferring the behavior into a new context, is fairly advanced training for many dog parents.
- Use a treat or toy to encourage backing up: This is my favorite way to teach a dog to wipe their back paws, because it's relatively quick and straightforward. If your dog is completely comfortable following a treat in your hand, then slowly moving a treat backward between their front paws will often prompt them to back up, in order to follow the treat. In the video below I also show examples of tossing a treat between a dog's front paws under their belly, so they back up to get it. Once your dog is backing up reliably, start preferentially reinforcing instances in which they slide their back paws along the mat, rather than picking them up.
A toy, like a ball or rolling food puzzle toy, can be used in a similar way to a food lure. I have one example of this in the video below.
- Use a treat to encourage "climbing up" an angled surface: If you've watched videos on how to train a dog to file their back nails on a nail board, you've probably seen examples of this method. In the video, I draped a mat over a board held at a steep angle, and then encouraged Pancake to try to climb up the board to get a treat. When he puts a rear paws on the board, they slide back down because of the steep angle of the surface. If you can keep this sliding motion as you decrease the angle of the mat, you could use this approach to train rear paw wiping.
This method could be uncomfortable for dogs with rear end stiffness or weakness, and I found it awkward to do with my large dogs. But it might be a good option for you if the previously mentioned approaches don't work.
If you try any of these strategies to teach rear paw wiping, we'd love to hear from you! Shoot us a message or email ([email protected]) and tell us what worked, and what didn't.