Refining Your Dogs Grooming Manners

Good grooming manners don't happen overnight. Familiarizing your dog with procedures is essential in anything you're trying to get your dog to do. Dogs need to be trained in good grooming manners so they get used to the idea of being cleaned and preened — they may even come to enjoy it! After all, grooming is attention and time spent with you.

Unfortunately, most dogs are introduced to grooming at the worst possible time, when they're either dirty, have mats in their hair, they need their toenails clipped, or all of the above. They struggle (Who wouldn't?) because they don't like being held or having their feet touched or their fur pulled. Remember when you were a kid and had a mat (or bubblegum) in your hair?

You know how unpleasant that is. I used to hate to have my mom comb my hair, because I always had so many tangles. Your dog feels the same way.

The best way to instill good grooming manners in your dog is to make the experience a pleasant one. Otherwise, your dog simply won't participate or will do so only grudgingly.

The best time to train a dog to accept any kind of grooming procedure is when he's a puppy. Puppies are more open to new things, and you have time to build up good experiences from this openness. When your dog hasn't had any bad experiences with grooming, he's more likely to be accepting of the procedures.

But even if you have a dog who has endured bad experiences with grooming, you still can retrain him to accept it. Your dog just needs more time and more training.

Try spending about five to ten minutes a day training your dog to deal with grooming issues. Keep your sessions short and fun and always end them with a quick game of fetch or another activity that your dog enjoys.

Using positive reinforcement to train your dog

A great training method known as positive reinforcement works well with dogs in most situations. When using this method, you reward the dog's behavior that you want to see and ignore — don't acknowledge — what you don't want to see. For example, every time your dog hops onto the grooming table, give her a treat or high praise — "Good dog!" When your dog doesn't get on the table, don't give her any rewards or attention — but don't punish her, either. The trick is providing a good enough reward that your dog actually wants to get on the table each time.

Most dogs are food driven, so food is used in most positive reinforcement training, because it's easy to hand out and most dogs do what you want to do for the right kinds of treats. You may have to experiment a bit with your dog, especially if one treat isn't going to do it for her. You may have to think outside the box and go with human food. I haven't yet found a dog who would pass up cooked steak, liver, or chicken. I'm sure they're out there, though. On the other hand, keeping a handful of your dog's regular kibble close at hand can be just what the vet ordered.

When handing out treats, make sure they're small enough so you can reward your dog with a bunch of them. Unless your dog is ultrathin, doling out medium to large treats is likely to make for a very fat dog in no time. Try splitting treats into thirds or buying treats made in tiny-sized portions.

Some dogs simply are not food driven. If yours truly isn't, try finding a toy that she's ecstatic about or a brief activity she really enjoys, and use that as your treat.

Showing your dog how to enjoy grooming procedures

If humans have one fault when it comes to their canine friends, it's that they can be a little impatient. Yes, dog owners have it all figured out, and somehow (perhaps by osmosis or by rote) they think their dogs have figured it out, too. What dog owners forget is that dogs sometimes find humans just as perplexing as humans sometimes find dogs. The problem: What translates well to humans doesn't translate at all to dogs, and that applies to grooming.

When you begin a grooming session, your dog probably won't understand that it's ultimately for his benefit — even if you try to explain it to him. He is, after all, a dog, and dogs don't come with the knowledge of combs, brushes, shampoo, and nail clippers.

Because you can't simply sit your dog on the couch and rationally explain grooming to him, you pretty much have to leave him in the dark about why it has to be done. You can, however, make your dog comfortable with tools and procedures simply by minimizing the scary and painful sides of grooming as much as possible and giving rewards and praise for behaving in the right way.

You go about this task by desensitizing your dog to smaller grooming issues that won't bother him as much by doing the following:

^ Choosing a time when your dog is a little tired and maybe a little hungry. You want your dog to be willing to stand still for a while and to accept food from you when you want to initiate a grooming procedure, such as brushing or toenail trimming. However, you don't want your dog so tired that he's falling asleep.

^ Finding a quiet place around your house where you can spend some time alone with your dog. The room in which you plan to groom your dog needs to be in an out-of-the-way area where neither you nor your dog is distracted.

^ Petting your dog gently all over his body. Observe his reactions as you touch his legs, the sides of his body, his face, his tail, and his rear end.

i Giving your dog small treats as you're petting him. These morsels provide a distraction for your dog when you're touching him in areas he otherwise may find worrisome or uncomfortable.

If your dog shows signs of sensitivity or nervousness when you touch a particular area, don't push it. You may be tempted to insist on touching the spot your dog's reacting to harder, but don't. Lighten up on the pressure to find out whether the nervousness continues or abates. If it continues, move to another section of the body that he's more comfortable with you touching. As your dog relaxes, you can try to go back to the sensitive area with a gentler approach.

i Keeping the petting sessions short — maybe one to two minutes, tops.

The length of these initial sessions isn't as important as the frequency. Intersperse them frequently throughout the day.

Gradually increase the length of the petting sessions as your dog relaxes and begins to enjoy them. You can also move the petting sessions into your grooming area, if you haven't done so already.

i Getting your dog used to grooming objects, such as by running a brush or comb through his fur and against his skin. Start with a soft slicker brush (see Chapter 3), substituting it for your hand and repeating the petting routines described earlier in this list.

If your dog is fearful of grooming procedures, you need to make the petting and brushing sessions extremely short at first. Use treats to coax your dog's attention away from the slicker brush so that he focuses instead on the food you're giving him and the pleasant sensation.

Whatever you do, don't push the sessions any longer than your dog can stand. If your dog reacts adversely to them, start out by holding a treat and letting him nibble at it. While he's distracted (tricky, eh?), slowly and gently use the slicker brush, praise him when he's reacts positively, and then stop. Work up to longer brushing sessions slowly.

Handling sensitive puppy feet

Dogs hate having their feet handled — possibly because they're ticklish but more likely because it just doesn't feel right to them. The fact is if you're going to groom your dog, at some point your dog must get used to having you hold her feet.

Being able to hold your dog's feet when grooming is essential. You need to hold them when you're:

ii Clipping your dog's toenails or trimming the fur between her paw pads i Checking your dog's feet for foreign bodies such as burrs, foxtails, thorns, and other stickers that can cause her to limp i Examining your dog for other injuries

You can help your dog acclimate to having her legs and feet touched in much the same way you work with her to accept grooming procedures (see previous section). After choosing a time when your dog's a little tired and maybe a little hungry and finding a quiet place where you can spend a little time together (your grooming place is a great spot), try the following:

1. Pick up and then set down your dog's paws one at a time.

Observe her reactions as you pick up her feet. Don't hold them for any length of time — just a quick pickup, look-see, and then put them down.

If she reacts negatively, try distracting her with a bit of food as you pick up the paws.

2. Repeat the paw pick-up and put-down process several times a day.

Don't lengthen the sessions until your dog becomes comfortable with the procedure.

3. Gradually lengthen the amount of time you're holding the paw when you pick it up.

Increase your holding time by a second or two until your dog is comfortable with you separately picking up all four feet. Distract her with food whenever necessary.

If your dog shows any sensitivity or nervousness, don't push the process. Although you may be tempted, don't hang onto your dog's foot any longer, or hold it tighter, than your dog will allow. Reduce or increase the amount of time spent on this step according to whether your dog's nervousness continues or abates. If it continues, go back to Step 1 and work from there.

4. Try a light one- or two-second massage as your dog becomes more comfortable with having her feet held.

Rub each toe individually rather than just holding the foot. The sensation may be new to your dog and a little scary, so be brief.

5. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend massaging your dog's paws.

Your dog soon finds out that it's easy to relax and enjoy the massages. Be sure to move these sessions into your grooming area, if you haven't already done so.

Eventually your dog grows accustomed to having her feet handled. When you start clipping her toenails, try clipping the nails on only one paw at a time so you don't have to hold her in one place for so long. Just trim the tips; don't try to cut a lot off at this time. See Chapter 6 for more information about trimming toenails.

Manipulating your dog's mouth

Most dog owners never really have to handle a dog's mouth unless they need to give their dogs a pill — and then, watch out! As a dog owner, you soon learn that handling your pup's mouth can be a real struggle, and those pointy teeth can hurt like heck when you're on the receiving end.

The truth is that dog owners need to handle their dogs' mouths all along for good grooming reasons, such as:

^ Brushing your dog's teeth

^ Looking for foreign objects in your dog's mouth ^ Giving your dog pills and liquid medication

^ Checking your dog for health problems such as shock (gray gums) and dehydration (sticky gums)

The problem with your dog objecting to having his mouth handled is that he may consider letting you know his position in no uncertain terms — yes, ouch, big time — especially when his teeth are so close to you. You must be extremely careful when working around your dog's head, because snapping when frightened or in pain is an instinctive reaction for your dog. Go slowly and deliberately, and watch for signs of possible fear or even aggression when working with your dog's mouth.

Again, you can show your dog how to accept being touched on the mouth using a method similar to the way you persuade him to accept grooming procedures (see the previous section). Remember, slow and easy does the trick. After choosing a time when your dog's a little tired and maybe a little hungry and finding a quiet place where you can spend a little time together (your grooming place is a great spot), try the following:

1. Touch the sides of your dog's mouth.

Observe his reactions as you're touching his mouth. Use light pressure — nothing major — and then give him a treat and as you touch his mouth, letting him work on the treat in your hand so that your fingers are touching his gums.

Repeat this procedure a few times a session, several sessions a day, to get your dog used to it. If your dog reacts negatively, try distracting him with a bit of food as you touch his mouth.

2. When your dog is comfortable with you touching his mouth, try pushing or flipping up his flews (upper gums) and letting them drop along each side of his mouth.

Don't lengthen the sessions until he becomes more comfortable with this procedure.

Lengthen the flew-flip time by a second or two after your dog grows comfortable with that form of touching. Distract him with food if necessary.

3. When your dog is accustomed to having his flews flipped up, you can lightly rub his gums with your fingers and a soft treat.

In place of the soft treat, you can try using a bit of doggie toothpaste that's flavored with chicken or malt.

Don't force the issue if your dog shows any sensitivity or nervousness. Although you may be tempted to push on, don't. Instead, reduce the time spent rubbing his gums to find out whether the nervousness continues or abates. If it continues, go back to Step 1 and work from there.

4. When your dog is more comfortable having his teeth and gums touched, try a light one- or two-second gum massage.

Rub the gum lightly rather than just touching it. This sensation may be a new one for your dog, and it may be a little scary, so be brief.

5. Gradually increase the length of the massage sessions as your dog relaxes and starts to enjoy them.

Move them into your grooming area, if you haven't already done so.

As your dog relaxes and enjoys the attention, be sure to get him used to opening his mouth and having all his teeth and gums touched. Go slowly and gently — don't force.

Convincing your dog to accept eye contact

One mistake that dog owners sometimes make is not making proper eye contact with their dogs and then all of a sudden expecting the dog to accept eye contact. If your dog is uncomfortable with making eye contact, it may be because dogs sometimes consider eye contact as an aggressive, challenging, or domineering behavior.

However, when you're grooming your dog, you can't always avoid your dog's gaze, so you need to train your dog to accept eye contact as something pleasing and not challenging. You may see your dog avert her eyes when you look into them, but don't fret — she's only saying, "I know you're boss."

Training your dog to respond to the Watch-me cue can help you make better eye contact with your dog. Starting with a handful of treats and working with your dog when she's just a little tired and a little hungry, follow these steps:

1. Get your dog's full attention by showing her one of the treats.

Hold a treat up to the bridge of your nose. Your dog should follow the treat with her eyes.

2. When your dog makes eye contact, offer her praise and drop the treat so she can catch it.

Repeat this step several times to reinforce the pleasurable aspect of making eye contact.

Practice Steps 1 and 2 several times a day.

3. Pair the action in Steps 1 and 2 with a cue, such as "Watch me!"

Say, "Watch me!" show your dog the treat, and then give it to her when she makes eye contact.

The Watch-me cue is useful whenever you want to get your dog's attention.

Dog Owners Handbook

Dog Owners Handbook

There are over a hundred registered breeds of dogs. Recognizing the type of the dog is basically associated with its breed. A purebred animal belongs to a documented and acknowledged group of unmixed lineage. Before a breed of dog is recognized, it must be proven that mating two adult dogs of the sametype would have passed on their exact characteristics, both appearance and behavior, to their offspring.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment