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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!