If you’re a dog owner, you know how important it is to keep your pup healthy and happy. One of the best ways to do this is through body handling. By getting your dog used to being handled in different ways, you can prevent them from becoming stressed or anxious when handled by others. In addition, it may also help prevent your dog from biting others in stressful environments.
So, how can you get started with body handling? Here are a few tips:
Start Early and Often
From the very beginning, make it a point to practice body handling every day. Start when your dog is calm and feeling safe. Use calm praise, massage, and lots of high-value treats to create a positive association with being handled. This will make it easier for your dog to accept being handled by others as they go through life.
Be Cautious and Watch for Signs of Discomfort
It’s important to note that body handling is delicate and requires careful attention and observation of your dog’s comfort level at all times. A scared or trapped dog might bite, so only do body handling if you know your dog is comfortable and feeling safe. Go very slowly, watch their body language closely, and only continue to touch them when they are actively showing you they are comfortable.
The more you practice body handling, the easier and more normal it will become for your dog. You can desensitize your dog by gradually exposing them to different forms of handling. Here are a few examples:
Teeth – lift and handle the lips, touch the front and back side of all teeth, handle the tongue, and introduce a toothbrush and tasty (enzymatic and dog-specific) toothpaste. Look at the gums and notice their color (if they are unwell, the color of their gums will change).
Ears – feel and move around the ear flaps, look down inside both ears, sniff each ear (if there is an infection, the smell will be off), and gently use ear wipes and ear solutions.
Paws – gently touch all four paws, touching and looking between each paw pad, sniff the bottom of each paw (this is where your dog’s sweat glands are, and each dog’s individual scent is in their paws), touch every nail (including dew claws). This will help them feel more comfortable when you have to clip their nails.
Eyes – look into each eye briefly, and gently wipe over closed eyes with a soft, warm cloth.
Tail – feel each vertebra along the tail, and move the tail up and down, side to side. Did you know that the tail is an extension of your dog’s spine?
Body position – practice gently holding your dog close to you while they are standing, sitting, or laying down, and if they are open to it, practice cradling them on their back either in your arms or on your extended legs while you are seated. With this exercise, be very careful that they are comfortable with your proximity and actions before proceeding. Your goal is to make them feel safe and comfortable.
Body handling is an essential part of caring for your dog. By getting your dog used to being handled in different ways, you can help prevent them from becoming stressed or anxious when handled by others. Remember to go slowly, watch for signs of discomfort, and always make sure your dog is feeling safe and comfortable. With patience and persistence, you can help your dog feel happy, healthy, and well-cared for.