your dog feels good about physical contact with you ?

Posted by niyaohao14 on April 23rd, 2014

Have you ever stopped to think about how many times a day you do something to your dog that involves physical contact? I’m not talking about petting him when he nudges up against your leg; I’m talking about grasping his collar, putting his leash on, picking him up, wiping debris from the corners of his eyes, wiping the mud off his paws, trimming fur somewhere on his body, and many more “husbandry” procedures that require various degrees of restraint and touch. Chances are you really only think about it when your dog protests, but chances are he thinks about it every time you reach for him.

If you’re lucky, he’s thinking good thoughts. This happens when he has a generally positive association with the outcome of your touch. These are the procedures he loves. Good associations can happen incidentally (Leash = going for a walk – Yay!) and you can create them deliberately (Touch collar, feed a treat; collar = treats – Yay!). If you’re not so fortunate or proactive, your dog may have negative associations with some of your procedures. These are the ones he avoids or actively resists.

Your dog will tell you !

An owner who is skilled at observing and reading her dog’s body language is usually well aware when a canine pal is even slightly uncomfortable. (See “Say What?” WDJ November 2005). That’s “note to self” time; an pportunity to help change a mildly unhappy association to a very happy one, to avoid trouble down the road. Many owners, however, don’t notice until the dog is putting up major resistance. At that point it’s a much larger project to change the now well-established negative association. Once again, prevention is better than cure.

If you’re working with a pup or a young dog who doesn’t have many associations yet, don’t let him become even Slightly uncomfortable. Treat every new procedure as an opportunity to make wonderful associations with all the handling procedures you may perform with him over the years.


Here are examples of some of the procedures you can help your dog learn to love:

■Reaching for the collar: Bet you can’t even count how many times this has happened to your dog, whether it’s reaching to put on a leash, to restrain him as a jogger goes by, to put him in his crate, or to hold him while you do Something else to him. Most of the time grabbing for his collar is more reinforcing for you than for your dog, and he learns to shy away when you reach. This can be a serious safety concern, especially for those times when you have to grab him to protect him or prevent him from doing something inappropriate that could get him injured.

We do an exercise in our basic “good manners” classes called “Gotcha!” in which we teach the dogs that someone reaching for the collar consistently means something wonderful is coming. “Wonderful” is most often a tasty treat, but can also be a toy, a ball . . . or a leash and a walk. The “Gotcha!” exercise is intended to desensitize your dog to having his collar grabbed, and to teach you the correct way to grasp a dog’s collar. This will help him enjoy having you reach for him, and greatly reduce the risk of a bite when you must take hold of your dog in a tense situation, since he will have learned to associate a collar grab with a reward. Begin with your dog sitting in front of you. Say “Gotcha!” and feed him a treat. Repeat this until he brightens up when he hears the word. Then circle your hand over his head, say “Gotcha!” and feed him a treat. Repeat until he is calm when you do this, and happily anticipating a treat. Then touch his collar under his chin with the “Gotcha!” and treat. Over several training sessions, gradually increase the intensity of your touches until you are grabbing the collar with the “Gotcha.” If at any time your dog flinches or tries to pull away you have moved forward too quickly. Back up a few steps in the process and start again.

■Apply medication: When we found Dubhy, our Scottie, as a stray (some 10-plus years ago), he had badly infected ears and wanted no part of treatment.The dilemma when the ears are already infected is that no matter how much you add treats to the program, there’s still a negative association with the pain the treatment inevitably causes. Fortunately Dubhy is a forgiving soul, and in just two days the treat-association far outweighed the pain for him; the sight of his medication bottle would send him running to his mat in the kitchen to await treats – and treatment.

Most owners wait until ear cleaning or infection time to worry about how the dog will handle it. Wise owners spend a moment or two each day initially touching ears, then feeding a treat. Over time they increase the stimulus to rubbing the inside of the ears, feeding a treat; pressing a finger into the ear canal, feeding a treat; touching the inside of the ear with a moist cloth, feeding a treat; and even doing the same with a medication bottle and some benign liquid or gel, until the dog thinks nothing of having his ears invaded. The same holds true for similar procedures: administering eye drops, brushing teeth, removing debris from the corners of your dog’s eyes, applying topical flea and tick preventatives . . . Start small, well before the procedure is actually critically important. Associate your movements and the various tools and accessories with really good treats, and when the day comes that you really do need to treat or clean your dog’s ears, he’ll be happily waiting on his mat for treatment, just like Dubhy

■Lifting: Lots of small dogs get picked up – a lot. Many of them don’t much like it, but are pretty helpless to prevent it, unless they snap and snarl. Just imagine how off-putting it would be to have a creature as much as 10 to 20 times your size (or more) swoop down and snatch you off the ground without warning, whenever it pleased. When Scooter, our 10-pound Pomeranian, first joined our family two years ago, he was very resistant to being lifted. Even approaching him with lift-intention body language was enough to elicit a snarl. With a gradual association between good stuff and touch, then pressure, then lifting, he began to relax about being picked up. At that point we introduced a “Ready?” cue – in essence giving him notice of the pending lift, and the choice to be picked up. Now, when I say “Ready?” I can feel him gather himself to be lifted, and when I say “Okay!” and pick him up he gives himself a small boost off the ground, as if to help. If I don’t feel him gather himself but I lift anyway, he will snarl. He still doesn’t appreciate being lifted if he is lying down, and I respect that. If he’s lying down and I need to pick him up I’ll invite him to stand, and if he declines I toss a treat to get him up. Treat consumed, he’s usually more than happy to play the “Ready?” game.

■Wiping paws: Many dogs have negative associations with paw handling, in part because paws are most commonly touched and held for nail trimming – a procedure that creates a very negative association for lots of dogs. (See “Do My Nails, Please!” March 2009). As with the “Gotcha” procedure, begin by just moving your hand near your dog’s paw and feeding a treat. When his eyes brighten and he looks for a treat as your hand moves toward him, add a brief, gentle touch before you treat. Gradually increase the length of time you touch, and then the amount of pressure. As things proceed well, eventually add small movements, working up to vigorous ones that approximate the movements you would use when toweling off his paws. Over the same time period but in different sessions, introduce him to the towel.

Show him the towel, feed him a treat. Repeat until you can tell by his response that he’s convinced towels make treats happen. Let him sniff the towel, and feed him a treat. Touch him with the towel on other parts of this body (assuming he’s comfortable with that) and feed him treats.

When he’s happy with both parts – the paw touching and the presence of the towel, you can put them together. Start with a brief gentle touch of the towel to his paws, and feed a treat. Gradually work up to a full, vigorous paw-toweling, making sure to keep the positive association as you progress.

Resource: Aeman pet supplies company which offers lighted dog collars in China.

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