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Yes, You Can Train Your Dog to Paint!

There are celebrity dogs and internet sensations all over the place; dogs with their own clothing lines, swag and even dog food sponsorships. Have you thought of a way your dog could earn some fame? How about painting? It’s a fun trick to teach your dog – even if you are the only one who ever appreciates his style of artwork.

And who knows, he may become famous. There are already dogs out there that paint and get paid. In fact Ziggy, A Pekinese in San Diego, gets up to $250 for each work of art! He generously gives the money to rescue groups.


A quick note about supplies! Make sure you use only NON-TOXIC paint and that you supervise your dog while he is expressing his creative freedom. For his safety and the safety of your home décor. In fact, you may find this is best as an outdoor activity.

Train to Paint

a paper tube can make holding the brush easier. Image source: Ziggy
a paper tube can make holding the brush easier.
Image source: Ziggy

The hardest part of teaching your dog to paint is teaching them to grip the brush (as you seen in Ziggy’s video below).

His owners attached a paper towel tube to the brush, to make it easier for Ziggy to grip it. You can try this with your dog, if you think they are not going to want to bite down on the thin, hard brush handle. In addition, the added length provided by the tube helps your dog stay clean.

  • Start by marking and rewarding your dog every time they approach the brush (this is for dog who do not already have a “get it” cue).
  • Continue to “up the criteria” little by little, until your dog is grasping the brush. Make sure you only reward for grasping the handle, and not the brush part.
  • If your dog is reluctant, you can entice them by putting something like peanut butter on the handle.
  • Once your dog is holding the brush, you have a few options, depending on your patience and skill as a trainer.
  • You could use shaping and targeting to teach your dog to dip the brush in the paint, or you can just do it for him.

Getting Paint on The Canvas

Once your dog is holding the brush, the next trick it to get paint on whatever medium you choose. There are a couple ways to do this.

You can position your dog in front of the canvas (like they do Ziggy), or using target training, teach your dog where you want him to paint (give it a cue like “go paint.”)

You could even teach your dog that the word “brush” means to move their head up and down while holding the paintbrush and another word means move your head from side to side – thus you are helping them paint. Or, you can let your dog do whatever he wants with the brush once it’s in his mouth with paint on it.

It’s up to you how much of a controlled trick you want this to be.

The Paws Approach

While Ziggy uses a paintbrush, it is not necessary! Remember finger painting as a kid? Your dog can just as easily do paw painting with little to no training.

All you need to do is get a big piece of paper, fabric or canvas, some non-toxic paint and then put it all somewhere that can get messy!!

Be sure to have a plan for clean-up after you are done. Are you near a hose or sink so get all the paint off before you go inside?

Then, dip your dog’s paws in some paint, put him on the canvas and let him have fun! To create effects, you can ask your dog to do tricks on the medium, have them run across it, etc. This technique could make some really nice memory pieces with your dog’s paw prints.


About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of, A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.



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Written by Kristina Lotz
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