Manual The Dog Handling Guide to Grooming

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He immediately took to the training, and seemed to be a different dog when he had the opportunity to earn rewards with his behavior.


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I began lightly handling him while he touched the target. Next I put him up on the table and used the target. During each of his appointments, which lasted less than an hour total, I was able to do some basic grooming combined with the target training. Within just a few sessions he was willing to cooperate for all of his grooming. Most dogs will naturally want to investigate the target, which can be any object you choose to use. Some dogs will need some more encouragement, but be patient. Marker-reward training is the key to success with target training.

How to Groom a Pregnant Dog

Other types of rewards can be used as well, such as praise, toys, and play. The marker tells the animal exactly what they did to earn a reward.

It will only be used for training purposes and it is always followed by a reward. Without using a marker it would be difficult to communicate with the dog clearly so that they understand it is the behavior of their nose touching the target that earns the reward, and not when they are pulling their nose away to get a treat. In the beginning every successful touch to the target earns a reward, but the rewards can be random once the behavior is learned. A puppy that dislikes people touching his paws is our example. However, if you give the puppy its favorite treat every time you touch its paw, the puppy is likely to begin tolerating your handling over time.

The puppy may even begin to look forward to your paw-handling sessions because it means they get yummy treats! The example above would require the same steps when working with an adult dog as it would with a puppy, however, progress can vary greatly between the two. While an older dog might be more difficult to teach at times, it is simply because they have already learned bad habits. Puppies give us the wonderful opportunity to work on bad behaviors before they happen.

Once a dog has developed a problematic behavior it is much more difficult to break them of it. This is why early desensitization of your dog is absolutely essential while your dog is still young and impressionable. When your dog is 3 years old and already has to be sedated to trim his nails, the process will be possible, but much more difficult. The first step in the process of desensitizing your dog to grooming is acclimating them to being handled. Every aspect of grooming requires your dog to be comfortable with frequent handling. It is important to pair reinforcement with handling for any body part that seems uncomfortable to your dog.

This will begin the process of counter-conditioning, and keep your dog moving in the right direction. Begin by simply giving your dog a few treats, or asking your dog to sit. Only increase the duration when your dog seems entirely comfortable. As your dog grows more relaxed with handling, begin to move your hands around, move their leg, etc. Once you have desensitized your dog to handling, they will be comfortable with having multiple areas of their body touched.

This is useful when we begin to use different tools for grooming, including brushes. Always ensure you are using the correct brush for your dog, and you are using it properly to avoid additional discomfort.


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Begin by gently manipulating the leg, and reinforcing. Brush gently with the direction of hair — reinforce again.

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Brush gently on the ends of the leg feathering, being cautious not to pull any tangles — reinforce again. Repeat this process, taking care to avoid as much discomfort as possible, and reinforcing heavily for any tangles that may hurt to brush through. To acclimate your dog to clippers, they must first be comfortable with the sound associated.

Groom Expo West

Once they are comfortable with the noise, we can desensitize to trimming small areas of hair, and build up the duration of time your dog stands still while being trimmed. Longer coats need daily attention to avoid knots. Begin with a pinhead brush or comb to untangle matted hair, taking particular care around the backside, tail and legs. Brush and comb the coat forward, then backwards - this will bring out the natural shine in silky coats.

If you own a long-haired puppy, consider taking them to professional groomers to keep them clean. Such groomers usually have a range of services that you can choose from, such as bathing your puppy, cutting their hair, checking their eyes and ears to make sure they are clean, checking their nose to make sure it is moist and not cracked, and cleaning out their paws. These services may be useful to make sure your long-haired pup is in the best shape possible. It is good to establish puppy grooming routines when your dog is still young and capable of learning new behaviour.

Imagine chasing a fully-grown wet dog as they run around the house, trying to escape a bath! Dogs rarely need to have their nails clipped, as they are automatically kept in check by the friction caused when your dog walks. However, just to make sure the nails do not break and bleed, there may be instances where you need to either file them if your dog is patient enough!

Prepare for Grooming and Vet Exams

Never use human nail clippers or scissors. You will need to prepare your puppy for the nail clipping process. It make take some time for your dog to become adjusted to this, but starting young is a good idea. You want to avoid cutting the quick as this can be painful and, if nicked, will bleed. Not brushing their hair can lead to the fur matting and becoming tangled. This can often cause them pain, especially when dirt clumps form and it becomes harder to untangle the coat. There are special dog brushes and combs available on the market.

Choose the one that suits the type of coat your dog has and try and brush their fur at least once in two days.