Caring For Your Dog: Getting a Handle on Handling Drills

handling Jan 09, 2024

Welcome to our new series, Caring For Your Dog! Getting your dog comfortable with various forms of handling is critical to their lifelong success at the vet, groomers, etc. We'll be sharing tips about how to take the frustration out of nail trims, tooth brushing, using the blow dryer, and more! Today we'll be starting with one of our favorites - handling drills!

Handling is something that is often overlooked by dog owners. We like to use handling drills from day one to teach puppies how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You can start handling drills with dogs of any age, but it's certainly easier to start when they're young. If your dog is uncomfortable being put on their back, having their paws touched, etc., we recommend starting these drills under the supervision of a trainer. Our training programs are the perfect place to start!

Handling Drills How-To:

Gently flip your dog on their back between your legs. Put one hand on their chest and one underneath their chin. Hold them in this position and whenever they get squirmy, use light pressure with your hands and legs to ensure they don’t squirm out. If they squirm out of this position, they will instantly learn that they can get out of uncomfortable positions if they put up enough of a fight. This position isn't about submission or dominating your dog, but you do want to be careful that you reinforce the behavior that you WANT (calm) and not what you DON'T WANT (thrashing).

Once your dog relaxes and stops squirming, lighten up on the pressure and gently pet them. This will reinforce their lying calmly in this position.

While in the handling drill position, also touch their paws, ears, mouth, etc. From this position, there are a number of grooming tasks that you can accomplish, so the more you get them comfortable being held in this way, the easier it’ll be for you to tackle those tasks.

Once you are ready to release them out, say “free,” let go with your hands, and allow them to roll out of the position. The important thing is to only release them when they are calm so that you continue to reinforce that mindset. If they are struggling, wait for a few moments until they still, then release them. 

Remember to keep your sessions very short at first, especially if your dog does not enjoy being put in an uncomfortable, vulnerable position. Brief, successful sessions will have a much greater impact than long sessions where your dog is constantly trying to evade the position. 

Also, set your dog up for success by introducing these sessions at times when your dog is primed to relax. Try adding handling drills after a training or play session. Later in the evening when your house is calm and quiet is also a good time. Remember that these drills are as much about bonding as they are about training. Make the time enjoyable for both you and your dog!

Happy handling!


Check out the other posts in this series here:

Caring For Your Dog: Making Your Dog a Grooming Rockstar!

Caring For Your Dog: How to Brush Your Dog's Pearly Whites

Caring For Your Dog: Taking the Frustration Out of Nail Trims



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