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Australian Shepherd Handling - Hank Snaps to Say “No”

It’s all in the approach!

Hank is an excited high-energy herding breed (Australian Shepherd) with not much regard for rules and boundary.

Remember that quote we just posted?

A lack of UNDERSTANDING rules and boundaries leads to a chaotic MIND.

A chaotic mind also doesn’t really have a lot of respect. And in Hank’s case this translates into not a lot of respect for the owners.

At his drop off, we got to see first-hand how Hank regards his owner, Jason. We started out with seeing crazy excitement. Hank pulling wheelies and showing teeth! Then when it came time to put a collar on, we saw how Hank really felt about it by showing teeth (again!) and snapping.

Grooming and/or putting on equipment such as leashes and collars can be a real challenge for dogs and their owners.

Handling exercises practiced during puppyhood will help with this a ton, but that’s not always practical, especially if you adopted your dog when he was already older.

For an adult dog, handling exercises are still a necessity, but you will also need to focus on a few additional items to be successful.

When it comes to basic grooming and training equipment, a large percentage of successful dog handling is in the approach. You also have other factors such as the dog’s state of mind and relationship.

Approach: you need to have a confident approach to handling. Your movements need to be smooth and predictable. If you make hesitant, unsure movements, it could put your dog off. Part of your approach should NOT include chasing your dog around to get the equipment on and/or to trim the nails.

Also, we don’t talk during this time unless we are giving a command the dog already knows. You’d be amazed at how much you are “saying” when are aren’t “saying” anything. There is a power in your silence.

We like to have the dog on an elevated “place” item, especially in the beginning, when we begin our handling exercises. This provides some unspoken, natural accountability by taking away too much free space to move around.

State of Mind: are you trying to groom your dog when he’s too excited? This is also partially related to approach. If you provide the right accountability (not letting your dog move away from you, but doing that in the right way) in your approach, you can put the dog at ease. Trying to control a dog in a harness who is also excited is very different from leading a dog with a collar, helping them in the right way and bringing about a sense of calm-relaxed focus.

Relationship: have you shown the right stuff to your dog so that your dog respects you? If your dog respects you in other areas of your life (areas other than grooming), trusts to follow your lead, and listens decently, you will have a much easier time with grooming as long as your approach to your dog and grooming is good. If your dog doesn’t care to ever really listen to you when you need it the most, and doesn’t respect you, odds are you will have more challenge with grooming and handling.

How we do it:

We teach the dog a place and sit command. We practice various exercises that involve the Hank learning to listen to us. This challenges the Hank mentally and physically. In the process of practicing repetitions, we add small doses of handling into the mix. Dogs get comfortable with us picking up a paw, spreading their toes, touching the clippers to the nail - all little by little as we are practicing training repetitions.

It’s also important to note that we do not move forward to the next piece of handling until the dog is comfortable with the current exercise. For example, we won’t try to spread the dogs toes unless he’s already comfortable with us picking up and holding his paw. We won’t touch the clippers to the nail unless the dog is comfortable with us spreading his toes.

This approach to getting a dog comfortable within a specific context applies to many other areas of the dogs life too....not just grooming.

That’s practically what training and socialization is all about! 😃

Its all in the approach as well as the dogs state of mind and how much the dog trusts you.


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