Tricks for Paw Care

Nail trims and paw care are a pain point for a lot of families. 

They can be uncomfortable or even frightening for everyone involved, so we spend a lot of time talking about nail care, which you’ve probably heard lately if you’ve been following Enrichment for the Real World podcast. 

In Episode 34 with Sara McLoudrey of Decisive Moment Pet Consulting, Sara and Emily discussed the many forms that nail trims can take, and in Episode 35: Implementing Predictability for Security, Allie shares how tricks like spin and paw targets helped a little pup who didn’t care to be handled. Sara the consultant that I’m currently working with for Care with Consent for Griffey, so you’ll see mention of many of her resources through this blog! 

So this week, we’re going to talk about some tricks that can help get you started on your paw care journey and make some of those later stages a bit easier. Whether you’re an experienced trainer, or you’re just starting out, tricks can be a fantastic way to build a teaching rapport with your pet and to practice some useful skills in low stake ways. 


Teach Your Dog to Go To an Absorbant Mat 

Of course, you can always use a towel that you don’t mind getting a little dirty, but I prefer something that stays put a little nicer than a towel does and hopefully wicks a bit more water away. 

Start by teaching your dog to walk over and stand on something that can absorb some of the water and grime from their tootsies. Some dogs will have an easy time with this, and others may be a little concerned about the texture. 

We have demonstrations of how to teach “go to a spot” through capturing, luring, and shaping if you’re wondering how to get started!


Teach Your Dog to Dig or Wipe Their Feet 

I love multi-use behaviors, and this is one of those things. For my dogs, it functions as a self-soothing behavior, it enabled us to teach them how to use a scratchboard, and it can help them to wipe their feet when they come back inside.

There are a number of ways to do this! You can use a bit of luring and a bit of capturing to teach your dog to scratch or dig on a variety of surfaces. Place a small treat under a towel, a piece of cardboard, or a plastic plate (choose something your dog is already comfortable touching), and then they touch it with a foot, scratch at it, dig at it or even step on it, then mark and give them the treat. You’re looking to practice switching paws and to build up to more vigorous digging over time! 

Here’s a great tutorial by Kikopup on teaching digging!


You can also watch for your dog to do it on their own and capture it. Both my dogs are avid ground kickers after they potty on walks, so we capture that, and they also dig when they have a little extra energy to expel, so we get lots of opportunities to practice this!


And if you’re worried about getting your dog’s dewclaws, check out this tip from Sara! 


Teach your dog to spin 

Spin, going both directions, can be a behavior to get your dog to move their feet in a specific location, and can be great from a mobility standpoint for many dogs!

Kikopup has two fantastic videos about teaching spin. 


Teach your dog to step into a tub or bin 

At some point in your dog’s life, they may injure their paw, or a nail and require foot soaks, and now is a great time to start practicing getting into a tub or a bin! 

The training for this can look a lot like teaching your pet to go to a specific spot (see above), with a couple of extra things to consider: 

  1. Make sure that they are stepping into a bin or tub with traction and that won’t move out from under them! Many of our pets will be more concerned when the ground *literally* moves under their feet. As demonstrated here kitchen/chef mats can be a great way to add traction AND give you the chance to do some sniffing! 

  2. Start with a dry tub or bin and gradually add in moisture! If you’re starting this training early, you get to take your time! 
  3. Make sure that the sides of the tub or bin aren’t too high. If you have a dog with short legs, ideally they can comfortably step into it without jumping!


Now what? 

  • Get a jump start on your paw or nail care journey! Make it fun for both you and your pet with some useful tricks! 
  • Make sure to check out Sara with Decisive Moment Pet Consulting for tons of great tips, tricks, and information regarding Care with Consent classes and opportunities!