Training your dog to wipe their feet is a very useful behavior, and it's a really flashy trick. We are going to use the technique of shaping, meaning breaking the end result behavior into small achievable steps to teach Walter to wipe his feet on a towel.
One of the reasons that this is a really great behavior to train other than it's a nice flashy trick is that a lot of dogs don't actually like having their feet touched very much, and the act of wiping their feet becomes quite a drama for the owner and for their dog when they come in from a rainy day. This is something you can use to help actually get your dog to wipe their feet, or you can just use it because it's fun to train.
I love training this behavior. Watching your dog learn and figure out what it is you're trying to train them to do is one of the funnest part of training this behavior. You really get to see your dog thinking and how intelligent they are. It's also really going to tire them out, so it's great mental exercise. First, we're going to need some tools. When you are training your dog, especially using shaping techniques, you need to be organized. You need to kind of think it out. I need to know what I need to train this trick.
I need to have numerous tiny treats cut up in my hand-free treat pouch, so that I'm ready to reward my dog rapidly in case my dog's doing really well. I don't want to be running out of treats on my dog. I don't also want messy treats. I don't want them flaking all over the floor. I want to be as precise about what I'm treating for, when I'm treating it as possible. I need the towel, and I need the dog, and I need my clicker.
My clicker is going to be my way of telling Walter what body motions he is doing that's earning him rewards. So I'm really going to have to observe his behavior. What I'm going to be looking for is any attention to the towel initially. These are the possible steps, that he looks at the towel, that he walks on the towel, and that he moves his paws on the towel.
As this session progresses, I'm hoping to see him start to swipe his feet on the towel so it looks more like a wiping motion. Once I get that, I will be less inclined to click and treat previous things that he was getting rewarded for. We slowly build on the behavior by selecting what is now going to be rewarded.