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Wednesday, 04 June 2014 00:00

The dogma of Handling

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One of the most important skills I have with my dogs is how they accept handling and the calming effect it has on them. I feel that this is a critical thing to work on with dogs, and in my experience, see that most dog owner's and people who interact with dogs, unknowingly encourage the opposite. Every dog should be taught to calmly accept handling and to enjoy it, and the benefits are endless. Some of the main reasons why dogma focuses on this is because:

  • People LOVE to maul dogs! We want to snuggle, pet and gush over dogs, so it is extemely important that they view this as a positive and we teach dogs to enjoy this
  • Vets and groomers will love you if your dog has learned to stand patiently while they are examined or groomed!
  • It also makes it a much less stressful experience on your dog when they are at the vet or groomers.
  • Most dogs learn that greeting people is an exciting, over the top event and we unintentionally teach them exuberance and over-excitement when interacting with people.
  • Through teaching a dog to calmly accept touch, you in turn teach them to greet people politely.
  • You will be able to handle any part of your dog and brush them, brush their teeth or clip their nails and they will sit patiently through this. Grooming can actually be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog!
  • Being able to handle your dog allows you to be monitoring their health on a regular basis and to notice any abnormalities or injuries sooner!
  • Handling and interacting with your dog becomes a quiet and incredible bonding time!

In classes at dogma, we will do a variety of handling exercises. The foundation of all of these is to begin to teach your dog to calmly accept touch. Instead of just holding them down and getting them through grooming, examinations or trying to administer medication, you will have a dog the learns to sit patiently and enjoy these exercises. We want our dogs to accept touch in an appropriate manner and not feel threatened by it. Start with the below exercises and you can then follow the same steps adding grooming tools, etc.

  1. Stroke your dog (back of the hand and on his side to start) and give him a treat for being calm.
  2. If he becomes aroused or apprears nervous, use a treat held still in front of his nose to be used as a distraction to start.
  3. Start on his back (back of your hand, if needed), move down his tail and under the belly. Touch his legs and move down to his paws. When you do this, ensure you are giving your dog lots of breaks and stop to reward him.
  4. Stay calm and give quiet verbal praise.
  5. Touch the top of his head and ears, moving to touch around his mouth.
  6. Do each body part multiple times ensuring he is calm and accepting the touch.
  7. Then start picking up paws, looking in ears and opening their mouth while rewarding.
  8. Add more pressure and prolong each touch while rewarding.
  9. If at any time your dog becomes fussy or nervous, go back to where you last had success and slowly build up.

We always want to start where we have success. Start with the family, then familiar people, then new people. If your dog becomes anxious or has fear concerns with people, I recommend that you contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or get your dog into our Facing Fear program or our Bravery Buffet drop-in sessions. If you have a dog that LOVES people and becomes way too excited, take a look at our Finding Focus Workshop to help teach him to settle and how to interact appropriately with people.

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