Handling dogs

At the young age of 13 I started into the world of showing dogs.  It has now been a very long time since I stepped foot into the ring but there were lessons that I learned way back then that I still incorporate in my day to day with dogs.

Handling:  the manual or mechanical method by which something is moved, carried or transported etc.

Handling does not only occur at dog shows although the term is extensively used in that world.  The handling I'm talking about today is general, all purpose,day to day handling.  That might include getting a harness on, being groomed, going to the vet, getting in and out of the car or anything where you need to handle your dog.  Handling is a funny thing; when people do not know how to appropriately handle a dog it can become a huge wrestling match.

Let's take feet for example; most dogs need their nails done now and again but the simple act of grabbing a foot can be the undoing of it all.   There is grabbing and then there is grabbing.  A hesitant end of the foot grab will likely result in a great deal of tugging back from the dog, resistance.  The harder you pull the harder they pull.  When you grab a foot, grab with confidence, not pressure, just confidence.  Then DO NOT pull, push the foot lightly towards the dog instead.

If you need to brush a leg; don't pull.  It can be difficult to brush out a leg when your dog is pulling away from you.  You need to stretch the leg out but the more you pull the more they pull.  Instead grab the front leg by the elbow, wrapping your whole hand around it gently maneuvering it frontwards so that the leg stretches naturally out straight.

Back legs?  Hold the foot on the ground to brush up around the ankles.  For the rest of the leg, always brush down first; before brushing in an upward motion for those needing fluffing.  If needed hold the dogs leg by going in between the back legs from the back and grab the front of the thigh holding it in place.

Have you ever noticed that when you push your dog they push?  As well as when you pull they pull as I've already discussed?  Yep, they all do it so you must work around that, not challenge the physics of it.  It just is.  Manhandling never works, too much touching, too much to lean into for the dog.  One finger works wonders if you know where to place that finger.  Joint areas are good spots to touch in order to move a dog manually.

The head is also a great rudder for movement needs.  When I want my dogs to turn around in a tight place I will put a couple of fingers on the side of their neck where it meets the head and gently guide.  It is amazing how easily they turn; calm and relaxed without a fight.  The more nervous a dog is the more important it is to touch as little as possible.  When you want a dog to move closer to you; push them ever so slightly away and they will move towards you.  If you try to pull them towards you they will more likely than not, pull away.

Of course the more training you give your dog the less you will ever have to maneuver manually.  But there are always times when we need to physically move our dogs. For those times remember that less is more in this department.  Gentle guidance with strategically placed fingers works a whole lot better than the makings of a wrestling match.