No Touchy My Toesies

As I sit here at my dining room table getting ready to write this blog my eyes shift up to the front window to see the thick flakes of snow falling past the streetlight…

… Then over to a freshly-groomed Opie lounging on the couch…

… Then to the ragged old towel by the front door…

… Then back to the couch and to the dirt spots next to his paws from just walking from the car to the house (because I was too lazy to dry them off completely before letting him bound to the couch to relax after his big afternoon of grooming. Work never disappears, it just gets redistributed).


But the good thing here is that it sparked an idea for this blog post (I’ll get the cleaner later, he’s snoozing like such a good pup).  

By now you may know how much I love to use tricks to make necessary tasks feel playful and fun, and paw wiping is no different!  Let’s take a trick that many pups already know (or can learn pretty quickly) and apply it to a new scenario.

This one goes out specifically to those of you who have a pup who would rather you didn’t touch their paws.  This works especially well for the short hair dogs who don’t get ice-ball-Ugg-boots from walking in the snow. IYKYK.


The trick: SPIN!”

The new location: On a nice fluffy bath mat or towel next to your door

The benefit: Your pup doesn’t need to be touched; you don’t need to bend down; this is way more fun.


Step 0: If your doggo doesn’t already know “spin” teach it to them!  Luring is often the fastest way to train this trick. First, picture your dog standing in a hoola hoop (or go and get one to put on the floor for you to follow) so that you can know the path your hand is going to take to lure the spin.   

To teach, put a tasty treat between your fingers and bring it right at their nose. Move the treat a couple of inches curved to one side.  If they follow you with their head, say “yes” and give the treat.

Try luring again from the front, gradually curving that path towards their tush following the curve of the hoola hoop. 

(Training tip: Imagine that the treat and your dog’s nose are magnetic to each other.  Only go fast enough, or a short enough distance, to keep them connected.)

(Double training tip: If one side seems super resistant, try the opposite direction.  Some dogs are left-handed.)

Finally, once your dog can follow your hand all the way around to return back to the starting position, add the cue “spin” (or whatever you want to say) and then lure in a circle again.

Now you’re ready for Step 1!


Step 1: Your pup is now a spinning all-star.  Let’s use that to our advantage.  Find a nice plush bath mat or towel (mat works better because it doesn’t move as much).  Toss a couple treats on the mat and let your dog eat them.


Step 2: Lure your pup to the mat using the treat.  When their feet touch the mat, say “yes” and give them the treat.  Once they’re doing this without hesitancy, you can add a cue like “mat” then lure them to the mat.


Step 3: Once they’re comfortably standing on the mat and looking at you like you’re a liver factory, lure them to do a spin on the mat.  Done!


Step 4: Do it again! Toss a treat away from the mat, lure them on the mat, treat, lure them to spin, treat, and repeat!  You can do a couple spins in one direction and then try the other direction.  If you’re trying to name it, try a different name for each direction to help with clarity.  For Opie I say “spin” and “twirl”, but I’ve heard “spin/unwind”, “wipe your paws/both siiiides”, “right/left”, it’s whatever is fun and clear to you both!


From there, you coooooould try to fade the lure so that it’s just a hand movement or verbal cue, but honestly, for this, I don’t think it needs to be intentional.  I think giving a treat for them cleaning their own paws is a fair trade. If you’re consistent enough, the fade will happen naturally as they predict the sequence and the consequence.


Now What?

  • Clean your pup’s toesies without having to touch them!
  • If your furry friend seems to have aversion to touch or is avoiding these grooming-related experiences, please reach out to your vet to rule out any medical issues.  If there’s a history of trouble grooming that you’d like to address, please reach out to us at [email protected]


Happy Training!