Wits End Dog Training: helping you to help your dog be the best it can be

Wits End Dog Training, helping you to help your dog be the best it can be.

Wits End Dog Training | Specifics

3. Grooming and being examined by the vet

My dog will allow being groomed and examined by anyone.


This another example of a skill where a gentle consistent approach works wonders. You will see me use a phrase, time and again, “firm and fair”. That is we will not be taking votes as to whether the inspection takes place or not, or whether it is finished or not, but by the same token we bring gentleness, confidence and consideration to the table. This is not about bullying, intimidation or fear. By either of us!

The first rule is to set aside enough time to enjoy the process. If you are stressed when you come to groom your dog, if you are in a rush, then your dog will probably not enjoy the process.

"If you bring your best, gentle, calm self to the table
and refuse to get flustered, you and your dog
are much more likely to enjoy the process
and look forward to the experience the next time."

The correct equipment is also very important, depending on your dog’s coat.

I have had good performance from the Furminator for removing and conditioning a shedding coat in Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German Shepherds and Irish Wolfhounds. It seems particularly effective with dogs that have a double coat.

An undercoat rake with pins that rotate made by Evolution has also been effective for removing tangles and mats, particularly with a long coated, double coat like the Briard and for the curly coat of working standard poodles, golden doodles and labradoodles.

If you take your dog to the groomer, then an experienced groomer who is not burned out will also make the world of difference to whether your dog looks forward to being handled. They will have both the correct and most effective equipment and the correct attitude to give your dog confidence in the experience.

"Practice holding your dogs paws, will he let you?"

Does he have confidence and trust in you? Bear in mind that when another dog grabs a dogs paws it is normally very stimulating because of the potential risk involved for the dog. From an evolutionary perspective this is related to what happens if this paw gets bitten or damaged. The consequence might be that the dog becomes lame, which puts the dog at an evolutionary disadvantage. It is unable to run away as fast or avoid confrontation or maybe even unable to hunt effectively!

I have seen someone suggest that when a dog starts going for the other dogs paws that it is a bullying tactic and a precursor to a dog attack which should be disrupted. I have to say that in my experience that is not necessarily so, or even very likely to be so. As with so much of dog-park folklore it might be correct occasionally. However the interpretation should be contextual to the relationship and the previous experience with both dogs. So, when used as play stimulation by another dog it is very effective if the dog doing the “attack” is well trusted. Of course the purpose of “play” itself is also to sharpen reaction time and avoid being grabbed!

You will now understand why some dogs do not find this very easy to let you do. I hope you can also see that in order for you to teach your dog that it is ok to be grabbed by you it is most useful to not be training it to react faster and faster to withdraw its paws!

"Touch, hold and release
should be taught with your good grace.
Start with short durations and gradually increase duration
until your dog will wait for your release."

Counter-conditioning can also be used with this for a very sensitive dog, this is where you might pair a food reward with a touch. The dog then hopefully starts to associate something good with the scary thing. Careful observation is crucial to success.

As with most systematic progressive desensitization there is sometimes a fine line between teaching increased tolerance (desensitization) and the complete opposite (sensitization). Sensitization can occur when the intensity of the stimulus exceeds the threshold of the dogs ability to cope. If you are sensing that this is the case you may need to involve someone with more experience to show you the subtle signs of your dog approaching the threshold.

"If you consistently work your dog below the threshold,
the dog will become more tolerant
and the threshold will change for the better!"



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