For the past few weeks for an hour each week I’ve been teaching a group of friends and their dogs.  They all came into the group with varying yet similar goals and have made awesome strides over the weeks.  And I’ve been having great fun with them all!

One of the goals many of them had was to work with improving their dog’s skill and comfort with body handling, everything from nail trimming and grooming to being petted.  And through various exercises including targeting, stays, engagement and such they’ve been improving immensely.  Last night building on the various successes they’d been having, we did a really fun Pawtraits exercise.  We were all laughing, it was great fun!

What are Pawtraits?  Simple really- traced outlines of your dog’s paws or other body parts.

Traced dog feet & other body parts in purple & green magic marker

So in order to trace your dog’s body part on a piece of paper 2 things have to occur- the body part has to make it onto the paper, and has to stay on the paper long enough for it to be traced.

For those 2 things to occur a dog has to-

  • Be willing to have a piece of paper under their body part
  • Be willing to stay still
  • Be willing to stay still as a person reaches to their body part with a writing implement
  • Be willing to stay still as a person traces around their body part with said writing implement

Those things are really really hard for many many dogs!

Ideally we want to do this exercise with the dog as relaxed, comfortable and willing as possible.  And there are loads of ways to approach that.

I was super impressed and proud of my students.  It was awesome to see how much the work they’ve been doing with their dogs over the past weeks made Pawtraits doable and super fun.  We ended up with outlines of front feet, back feet, tails, ears, legs and more.

Hearing people recognize for their dogs-

“You’re right, this marker is really smelly, here let me change to a different one to make this easier for you.”   (ie recognizing their dog was uncomfortable and problem solving why, then changing to make it more successful)

“Hmm, let me think about how to get your ear traced…” (ie developing a plan before attempting)

“I think a down stay will make tracing your rear feet easier, let’s try that…” (ie thinking about skills they and their dog had in their toolbox and experimenting which ones would be most successful)

Made my face hurt I was smiling so much!


15 thoughts on “Pawtraits

  1. So awesome when dogs and people improve so much together! Though I can’t say Brèagha really enjoys nail clipping, brushing, and such, she is very good about it. It’s more the standing still for more than 5 seconds part that used to be difficult. 😉 Because I am kind of vain when it comes to my dog, I brush her every day. I think she would roll her eyes about that if she could.

    1. LOL that’s great you enjoy brushing your dog! Glad she’s such a good sport about it. brushing is one of my least favorite dog owner activities. love my wash and wear dogs lol

        1. LOL! Yea when you have a dog with coat that is def true. I remember one of my reasons early on for getting into flat coats was (among many other reasons) was they had longer coat but don’t require daily brushing. I usually only needed to brush them really well 2x a year then spot brushing the rest of the time like when they got burrs in their feathers. It was glorious. Now with the corgi and the lab cross, short hair.

  2. That’s amazing. Next on the docket ‘Twister, doggy style’ Ok, that really didn’t sound the way I wanted it to, but can’t you imagine the dogs’ legs all tangled up and leashes interweaved and… I guess you’d have to be inside my head to imagine it and since that space between my ears is very scary, you’d best not venture there. 😉

    1. Lol! Well in this class, no leashes so dog twister would just be legs. Ooooh, teaching a dog to spin the little arrow thingy, that would be fun. Lol. I have played musical chairs with dog classes before, and red light green light, oh and mother may I. All fun times! The one the classes seem to groan about the most over the years though is races while balancing a ball on a spoon as they walk with their dog.

        1. Yes, of course, otherwise basic obedience and manners can get so well repetitive and boring. I watched a video from another dog training school the other day where they were all walking around doing ‘heeling’ in a circle and I thought, “Seriously?! Who does that anymore?!” That’s not real life. Doing fun silly weird games like that I find really helps students think outside the box and think about how they can apply the skills they are learning in classes to their real world life with their dog. How to find the fun in training their dog and how to increase their proficiency. It’s also a great confidence boost as students usually groan and go “We can’t do that! It’s too hard!” then wha-la! they can do it! Because of course I wouldn’t have suggested it as an exercise that day unless I was fairly certain they could do it. Plus we usually end up laughing and smiling and having fun, which isn’t that what dog training is all about? Obedience osmedience, who cares if your dog can sit or down when you ask. Relationship and fun, now that’s the name of the game! 😉

          1. I think I might have said it before, but you are amazing! You should write a book. I’m serious. I don’t know of any book out there that espouses your type of training methods.

          2. Awe, thanks! LOL re: a book, you are not the first to suggest such, but I have a really hard time wrapping my head around what to write

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