Week 3 - Handling

Touching a fearful dog can be challenging. Usually the attempt to dodge you, slip away, or worse, bite. Retraining a dog like this for vet care or grooming is usually even worse. It is the job of a fearful dog owner to help their dog feel better about touching and handling so that when situations arise when they must be touched, they are not frightened or deeply traumatized.

Touching the Body

Any part of a dog's body might be sensitive. Help your dog by touching them while they are licking a spoon or out of a container. Touch their ears, lips, teeth, toes, nails, base of the tail, stomach and anus. Every spot is important for health monitoring as well as grooming. Start out slow and if your dog pulls away stop feeding them and let them take a break. Then continue.

Tool Use

Make sure to practice tool use as well. Touch your dog on the body with a brush, nail clipper, Dremel (for nail grinding), thermometer, toothbrush, stethoscope, etc. Start by touching the dog in random locations while they eat. The focus on the location the tool is used. Then press the fur in the area the tool is used. Etc until the dog is comfortable with the tool touching them.


For a fearful dog, restraint is terrifying. We talk about control and empowerment in this class. Restraint takes both of those away. To counteract the loss of control we do everything we can to make restraint pay well and make the dog feel okay. Begin by reaching under the dog while they are receiving lots of treats. Then reach your arm around the front of their chest below the neck. VERY slowly increase the restraint. If the dog bucks or fights you, release them. This is not a battle of wills. This is desensitization which means we have to make it a great experience for the dog. Take it slow! And take it on the road. Practice in parking lots, at the vet, the groomer, and other parts of your house. Make it a normal but well rewarded part of your routine.

Muzzle Training

Muzzle training is beneficial for all involved. Use of a muzzle means no one can get hurt. In case of emergency or a situation that might require firmer handling than we would like, a muzzle puts everyone at ease.

Handout for muzzle training will be available soon! Hang tight!

Molly SumridgeComment