Easy No-Touch Paw Cleaning

fearful dogs Jul 25, 2022

Do you struggle to clean your dog's paws?  Many dogs dislike having their paws touched. If you have a fearful dog, trying to restrain them for paw cleaning could derail any confidence-building you're doing with them. In this week's video I talk about some strategies for getting your pup's paws cleaner without touching them.


Set Up for No-Touch Paw Cleaning

To clean your dog's paws without touching them, you need them to move around on something that will do the work for you.  For dogs who go outside and come in with muddy paws, placing a large doormat outside of the door might be easiest. That way your dog has to walk on the mat before they come inside, and you can keep them from running in before their paws are clean.  

For fearful dogs living mostly in an indoor "safe space", try placing cleaning mats or potty pads over as much of the available floor space as possible, and/or in areas your pup walks most often (like near the water bowl or in front of their crate).

I like soft, absorbent door mats for cleaning dog paws, but a more abrasive surface, like a turf square (the type used for indoor potty areas), or a mat advertised for boot cleaning, could remove caked-on mud (or poop!) more effectively. But be aware that some dogs will avoid walking on rougher surfaces. 

Misting or otherwise wetting the mat or a towel can also increase effectiveness of these paw cleaning strategies. 


Using Treats To Encourage Wiping Paws On The Mat

If your dog eats treats reliably, you can probably get them to move around on the paw-cleaning mat without any extra training.

  • Treat scatter:  Scatter treats all over the mat, and let your dog move around while collecting them. This works best for smaller dogs who can keep all 4 paws on the mat while searching for treats. For larger dogs, try tossing treats off to the sides of the mat. I have an example of this in the video below.

    I especially like the treat scatter approach to paw cleaning if your dog isn't completely comfortable with the person trying to clean their paws- like a pet sitter. The person can scatter treats, then close the door and move away.
  • Treat lure in your hand:  If your dog will follow food in your hand, you can lead them back and forth over the mat. For this approach to work the dog does have to be very comfortable with the person holding the food lure. 
  • Dig for a treat:  Hide smelly treats under the mat or towel, and see if your dog digs to uncover them. Since dogs mostly dig with their front paws, you'll probably need to use one of the other methods for rear paw cleaning. For my own dogs, this was a pretty inefficient paw cleaning method- they used their noses to push the mat back at least as often as they used their paws. But if you've got a dog who loves to dig, this might be just the thing to get them wiping their paws. 


Using Behaviors Your Dog Already Knows For Paw Cleaning

If you've trained your dog to perform common behaviors like sit, down, or hand target, you can use these to get your dog to move their paws around on the mat. Check out the video to see how my dogs wipe their paws on the mat while moving between down and sit positions. 

I really like "spin" as a paw-cleaning behavior, because it keeps all four paws on the mat. "Dance", or balancing and moving around on hind legs, is a good one to get my dog Pancake really moving his rear paws, but it's not a good option for my large senior dogs with hind end weakness. 

If you try any of these paw cleaning games, we'd love to hear from you! Shoot us a message or email ([email protected]) and tell us what worked, and what didn't. 



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