Health and Handling

Welcome to Health and Handling! Throughout most of your dog's life, physical handling will be a requirement. However no dog is born liking to be held, restrained, have their collar grabbed, or touched in strange ways. This class will help get your dog get started learning to like these things during the much easier formative puppy stage, versus having to fix it during adulthood.

Lesson 1: Collar Gotcha   /   Lesson 2: Sit   /   Lesson 3: Body Handling & Restraint
Lesson 4: Muzzle Training

Download Health and Handling PDF


What is it?

It’s where you take hold of the dog’s collar.

Why is it an important skill?

Our movements towards our dogs to capture them can appear very intimidating so they might scuttle out of the way. We don’t want our dogs to instinctively become excited or feel nervous/aggressive, so we condition them to the fact that sometimes we need to take a hold of them.

How to teach it:

  1. Reach your hand down past the side of your dog’s head. Mark (click or say “yes”) and reward. Repeat until your dog no longer flinches away from your hand.
  2. Reach your hand down and touch the outside of your dog’s collar underneath between the 4 ‘o clock and 8 ‘o clock position. Mark and reward. Repeat until your dog is eagerly anticipating your hand coming towards him.
  3. Gradually start to slide a finger underneath his collar, then two fingers, then three fingers. Mark and reward each time.
  4. As you reach down to take a hold of your dog’s collar, say “Collar”, and then slide your fingers underneath his collar and take a firm hold of it. Mark and reward. Repeat many times until your dog knows what the word “Collar” means.

What is it?

It’s where the dog puts his butt on the ground.

Why is it an important skill?

It allows us to ask the dog to bring himself under control, and becomes a default behavior for many daily things e.g. when his meals are placed on the floor, when he waits before you let him out of the door or car, when he is in public settings.

How to teach it:

  1. Hold a treat between your two fingers slightly above the dog’s nose, and move it back slowly just out of reach of his nose. Mark and reward when your dog follows the treat with his nose.
  2. Continue to mark and reward every time your dog begins to fold into the sit position.
  3. Continue by marking and rewarding when the dog’s rump touches the floor.
  4. When the dog is reliably offering the sit position, introduce a verbal “Sit” cue.

What is it?

It’s where we accustom the dog to being handled in all sorts of intrusive ways.

Why is it an important skill?

We will have a lifetime of taking care of our dog’s physical needs: grooming, bathing, hair trimming, nail trimming, teeth brushing, ear care, anal gland care, and of course, veterinary visits. We would like our dogs to be comfortable this level of touch.

How to teach it?

Handle your dog on a daily basis, as demonstrated in class.

Remember that:

  • Handling = Food
  • No handling = No food

Why is muzzle training important? 

Because you never know if your dog may need to wear one. Accidents (broken legs) can happen, and most dogs will bite when they’re in great pain. If the first time that you introduce a muzzle to your dog is when he is already highly stressed, then you further increase that stress level. Many vets, rightly so, are concerned for the safety of their staff, and will automatically advocate using a muzzle if necessary. By introducing the muzzle to your dog at an early age, and reminding the dog every so often of what a good thing it is, it becomes a non-event. And that’s exactly what we want it to be.

What kind of muzzle? 

We recommend using a plastic basket muzzle rather than a cloth one. Baskerville is the best brand. Clicker or marker training is a very effective way to teach your dog to accept the muzzle.

How to teach it?

  1. Let the puppy approach and eat treats out of the muzzle, and have him follow it.
  2. Avoid going towards the puppy with the muzzle. Allow the puppy to choose to put his muzzle into the basket.
  3. Place soft food (soft cheese, peanut butter) in the deepest part of the muzzle, and show your dog that the only way to get to the good stuff is by poking his nose into it.

If you have any questions regarding this lesson or any other lessons, contact your instructor.