Push and pull

              Yep, this is me at around the age of 15 I believe.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  This was a big Junior showmanship win for me.


I wanted to talk about pushing and pulling this morning.  What made me think of this was grooming Luke yesterday.  At a wobbly 13 years of age I hate to put him on the grooming table at all; so when I do, I do it with great care.  I would love to lay him down on the table but he would have a heart attack.  He is not like Tilley use to be; she would fall asleep on the table.  I think that Luke's table days are numbered and he will be getting groomed on the ground from now on.  But back to the pushing and pulling. 

The  mechanics of a dog body creates an opposite effect in that what you think should happen does not.  When you push a dog you assume that they will move in the direction of your push; but they do not, they push back.  When you pull, they pull.  So many dog owners are left in a physical stand off.  I learned this many, many years ago when I was in the conformation show ring at thirteen years of age; which is where and when it all started for me.  Yes I use to handle dogs, show dogs.  The first dog that I handled was a leaner; he would lean into me and if I tried to push him off he only leaned harder. 

Dogs are very easy to manipulate if you do not attempt to man handle them.  One finger works much more effectively than a full on hand push.  Being that my dogs are poodles they need to be groomed so they need to move a fair bit.  If I just grab a foot and start to clip they will pull back; the harder I pull the harder they pull until they could fly off the table.  If I hold their paw up a bit further and push into it, things go great.  If I want them to move closer to me I just use one finger to push them and they push back to equal my pressure. 

Ever tried to pull a dog somewhere that they didn't want to go?  Not easy.  They jam on those brakes and dig in.  But if you drop the leash, allow slack and walk along side coaxing; you'll get to the destination much quicker.  I will often put my hand over and under Luke's neck with just one finger actually touching him just below his ear.  This is enough to let him know that he is coming with me.  If I threw a collar and leash on him and tried to pull him, we'd be up for a struggle. 

I have handled so many dogs over the years; from the conformation ring, grooming, training and day to day that it just comes naturally now.  They have spots that make the whole thing very easy.  Of course moving them without touch also works wonders.  It is one of the reasons that I don't like collars on dogs; you have to think about what you are doing when they are collarless.  A collar can become an awful default maneuvering tool.  Can you get your dog to move around places without a collar?  You should be able to.  Dog's who are continually moved or stopped by a collar can also become collar sensitive and defensive. 

You can go about moving dogs the hard way; thinking that muscle will move a mountain or you can do it the easy way by knowing where to touch.  Learning where to touch to get the most productive response can take time.  Of course the closer you are paying attention the faster you will learn and the more easily you will move dogs.