Downeast Dog News

Mud Puppies!

Prepare yourself… and your dog…. for Mud Season!
By | Apr 01, 2019
Photo by: Dory, our previous dog, loved to stick her whole head into the ground!

Mud Puppies!

Prepare yourself… and your dog…. for Mud Season!

Mud Season: the price we pay for living in Maine!

It can be challenging to keep floors clean when dirty paws are coming through the door multiple times a day. Luckily, there are many options to help get us through this messy time of year.

Have a plan and prepare your pup sufficiently. You will need lots of dress rehearsals before he is ready for prime time! You may have to have him on leash for these exercises, but if he struggles a lot, you'll need to go really slowly.


Positive handling is key. Cleaning off paws, or any part of your dog's body, needn't be a struggle if you are super generous with the treats. Simultaneously feed and handle your dog for very short sessions at a time to get him happy about it. In the beginning, handle just a few seconds, pause and repeat. I use a refillable food tube (Coghlan's Squeeze Tube) filled with canned dog food for this purpose.

About Face!

If you don't want your muddy dog to race inside and plant his signature everywhere, you can train him to immediately turn towards the closed door as soon as he comes in. It's easy! Put him on leash outside, show him the yummy treats you have, then invite him to come inside. Hold tight! The instant he comes through the door, close it, face the door and feed him the treats with your hand held against the closed door. Repeat. [You can also use this strategy with the car door to keep your dog from instantly bolting away the moment you let him out.]

Keep a leash attached to the door handle (you might have to loop it around the handle on the other side of the door to keep it secure) to provide a handy tethering point. With one particularly over-exuberant adolescent guest dog whose impulse control left a lot to be desired, I spread peanut butter on the inside of the door to keep her busy so I could clean her off.

"Cookies in the Shower!"

Our bathroom happens to be right inside the front door: a very lucky accident. We can send our dog directly to the shower stall for cleaning. We play "cookies in the shower!" and will sometimes feed him meals there to ensure it remains a happy place. To teach it initially, I asked him to stay, then I tossed treats into the shower stall, then released him with the cue "shower!" You can play a similar game with your dog - choose a convenient spot where you'd like him to be for cleaning off and name it something fun. Practice many, many times when you don't actually need him to be there. You can also use his favorite toys.

Not Too Cold!

Most pups do not like having frigid water sprayed on them; it's just not comfortable. When you are habituating your dog to being bathed, be nice and use warm water. If you are outside, you can use pails of warm tap water.

Wash Cloth vs Running Water

A wash cloth is sometimes easier for a dog to accept than running water. Get the wash cloth really wet, then give your pup a massage with it while simultaneously feeding him. If you want to use soap, get the wash cloth soapy and rub the already wet areas of his body with it.


Train your pup to love to put his front feet up on a low stool or other similar object. The dog is stationary, his body nicely stretched out and it's easier to see and reach him. We have perches near each doorway and also in the bathroom. Astro is very good about perching in the shower so I can bathe him. We all love perch!

Rinse that Dirty Face of Yours!

The most effective way to clean a dirty face is by rinsing it. You can actually teach your dog to do it himself! With a shower hose inside or a garden hose outside, "plant" some super yummy meat treats under the spray of the hose, held low and stationary. The spray should be like a trickle at first - super easy for your dog to nose into and find the treats. Gradually adjust the setting, the angle and the height so that your dog is making the choice to put his head into the stream of water. He can become self-cleaning!

Kiddie Pool

When the weather turns warm, we station a kiddie pool not far from the door. A quick scavenger hunt for treats, a bit of splashing around and those muddy paws are rinsed and ready for toweling off.

The Right Brush

It's really hard to remove wet mud from doggie paws unless you rinse them. However, I have had some success using a small horse brush to remove dirt – it works much better than a towel.

Cool Gizmo

I've yet to test this clever product called the “Paw Plunger." It's like an oversized coffee mug into which you plunge an individual dog paw, like a mini, private bath for each paw.

Whatever you decide to do, prepare in advance and give your dog the skills he needs so that you can live as mud-free as possible. Experiment with the above strategies now, so those muddy paws can get a proper cleaning with minimal effort on your part!