When the snow melts and the rain begins, many dog lovers begin to wonder why they ever thought living with a dog could be a good idea. Those four paws may look small compared to human feet, but they can bring in an incredible amount of mud.

On a slick kitchen floor, the mud removal may be a simple matter of bringing out the broom and mop (although you’d rather not mop your floor every time the dog comes in). When the mud ends up in the carpet it brings the frustration and aggravation to a whole new level.

So – how can you love your dog even in the springtime? You can help him keep the mud outside.

If you’re the conscientious type, you can wash your dog’s feet every time they come into your home. Since it may be cold outside, this is easier to do if you have a covered or enclosed porch. There are special dog-cleaning mitts on the market, but the job can be done as well with an old towel.

Dogs don’t like people to mess with their feet, so most dogs need to be trained to accept this affront to their sensibilities. It’s best to do this when your dog is still a puppy, simply by touching and holding his paws in a gentle and non-threatening way when you’re spending some quality time together. If your dog is older, you can do the same thing, although the trust may take longer to develop.

Using two entrance mats is a much easier alternative to washing all four feet every time the dog comes into the house. You’ll need one on the inside and one on the outside of the door your dog normally uses when he comes and goes.

The most effective mats for use inside the door are made of nylon or olefin fiber on a vinyl or rubber backing. For outside the door, use a mat made of polypropylene artificial grass on a waterproof backing. With these two mats, one outside and one inside, most of the mud will be caught and trapped before your furry friend’s feet contact your floor.

Your dog will also enjoy lying on plush nylon or olefin mat, which is good news for you. Many of those loose hairs will end up on the mat instead of your couch. The mat will also collect dirt, burrs and grass seeds that have caught in your dog’s coat.

To make these mats even more effective, you can train your dog to wipe his feet – sort of. Actually, this trick is really “turning in place,” but when your dog performs this trick on a mat before coming in the house, almost all of the mud will stay outside. And it’s a lot easier to give him a “turn” command than it is to wipe those feet yourself.

Teaching your dog to turn on command:

Some dogs will pick up on this trick more quickly than others. Select a command that you will use every time. I use the word “turn,” but any word will do.

To begin, say the command word and then use your empty hand (without a treat) as a lure or target. To do this, wait until your dog is facing you, and then move your hand a quarter of a circle in front of his nose. As soon as you detect that the dog is turning to follow your hand, use your normal reward word (“good dog”) and give a treat.

When your dog seems to be getting the point of the exercise, wait until he has actually touched your hand with his nose. Then reward.

Now make your hand move halfway around the circle, and reward your dog before his nose actually reaches your hand. Do this several more times.

Now if you drop your hand when it reaches half-way around the circle, your dog should naturally complete the circle, since he’s going that way anyway. Say “good dog” and give him a treat. Repeat several times to lock in the new trick.

When your dog is fairly good at following your hand, you can begin to make the gesture much smaller. Use the command word and just begin to move your hand in a circle – your dog will probably know by now what you’re trying to get him to do, and he’ll spin on his own. Soon just a bit of body English or the command all by itself will be enough to get him turning on that mat, wiping off his feet as he goes.

If you can’t find a good mat at your local store, just do an online search for “Olefin entrance mat” (for inside) and “artificial grass for dogs” (for outside). With these two mats and a little training time, your floors will stay clean no matter how muddy it is outside.