What to do when your dog hates having his paws dried!

I spoke with a client earlier this week who asked if I had any advice about cleaning dirty paws because her little border terrier didn’t seem to like it and mouths her when she tries to clean him.

This is actually really common as many dogs don’t like their feet being touched at all and that’s because feet and legs are a huge part of an animal’s ability to survive.  It’s the lame elk who is easiest to hunt by the wolf, and it’s the lame wolf who may not be able to escape from an oncoming pack, therefore injured feet make animals feel extremely vulnerable.  And we know that when our dogs feel vulnerable they are not behaving in their most relaxed and easy going way, often showing behaviours we don’t want like growling, mouthing, nipping…

It’s not just injury that we need to think of when it comes to legs/feet vulnerability for our domestic dogs.  Anything that prevents their ability to flee, to run away, no matter where they are, can be a real problem for dogs.  I’m referring here to things like towelling “drying bags”.  This is one of those gadgets that makes me shiver actually!  I wouldn’t describe myself as  claustrophobic but the feeling of not being able to get out or move away from something is quite strong for me… my recent MRI was case in point!  So I feel like I identify with the dislike of a bag that dogs get popped into, often in the car, so they sort of get themselves dry.  Ugh!  Not for me thanks!  And then see it from the dog’s perspective which is total vulnerability, and we can understand why they object to the hideous drying bag, or simply having their paws held while dried.

So what can we do about this?  Firstly, the understanding of why they don’t like it helps.  And then all we do is take it slower and sweeten the deal!  Remember dogs always ask “what’s in it for me?” And they have no need themselves to want to clean or dry themselves to the extent that we usually want.  I suggest that you arm yourself with delicious treats, put a towel over your other hand and reward your dog for giving his paw to the hand with the towel when you ask him (as if a regular paw giving practice).  It only needs to be momentarily given to you to start this new association with being towelled, then you ask for the other paw etc.  Don’t give him too much eye contact and be calm and happy no matter what happens.

Try and go slower than you’ve gone before and reward for each paw even if you don’t manage a full clean first time round, just keep going doing it all again.  You can allow your dog to pull away if he needs to, and in this way you are building trust back up again.  Trust that you are going at the pace he can cope with.  Even if your dog is older and he has never liked it, going back to basics like this will really help and it will take no time at all before your dog is happy with you handling, washing and drying his paws.

Want a fun paw-drying exercise that doesn’t need you touching your dog at all?  Try this…

Find out more about my Speak Dog Coaching Programmes by clicking here

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Dog in a shelter

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