Every dog needs to learn how to accept handling by humans to be a safe and happy pet. It is amazing how many veterinarians, dog groomers, and dog trainers get bitten each year! In addition, most bites to children occur when a child is actively trying to pet, move, or handle a dog. Therefore, teaching your dog to allow you to handle him is an essential element of training.
The best way to teach your dog how to be handled physically is to practice daily touching and stroking exercises. Sit on the floor with your dog, facing him at an angle. Stroke him, moving along the suggested sequence, bit by bit. You don’t have to start with a complete examination; do a little at a time until your dog is comfortable with the exam. If your dog tries to get away, you may use a treat to keep him close. But be careful not to use this more than a few times; your dog needs to learn that you will not let him go until you are ready. Don’t let go of your dog if he struggles; keep holding him calmly until he settles. If you don’t think you can do this then work the exam in small bits at a time (prevention). It may help to put your dog up on a table so that he is more inhibited in his struggles (doesn’t want to fall off).
b. Head (cheeks in front of ears)
c. Back and sides of chest and loins
d. Front of chest, between front legs
e. Underline of body, from chest to tummy tuck up
g. Front legs to paws
h. Back legs to paws
i. Rear end, under tail
j. Mouth and teeth
k. Quick scratch on neck
l. Toenails and between pads on paws
m. Special strokes and scratches your dog likes
The SETTLE or TV DOWN exercise:
The “settle” or “TV down” exercise is simply a restrained down. Though initially this is an exercise to teach restraint, it eventually should become a wonderful calming experience for both you and your dog. Before you begin, your dog should be familiar with general handling (above) and being placed into a down position. To settle your dog, first get down on the floor with him. Lure or place your dog down and roll him onto his side. Place one forearm on his neck, and the other hand across your dog’s body, down by his flank (stomach). Keep your dog flat on the floor while you lightly stroke him with the “body” hand. If your dog moves, stop him by using both your forearm on his neck and your hand on his flank to restrain him. Your restraint must be firm enough to hold your dog down, but not so firm or rough as to panic him. As you do this, tell your dog to “settle” or “hold” in calm, low tone of voice. It is important you watch your dog closely to settle him quickly so you don’t end up struggling with him unnecessarily. After the “settle,” wait until you can feel your dog relax under your touch…immediately praise and begin stroking again using light, calm praise to reinforce relaxation. You should slowly work this exercise up to 10 – 20 minutes. Looking at the name, we can see that this exercise is best done watching TV!