Many people consider dog training to only be for those that want their dogs to be able to perform tricks or for owners that want their dogs to take part in a dog related sport such as obedience or agility.
However training can be put to use in such a way that it can make carrying out certain tasks so much easier!
When we take on a dog we also take on the responsibility of making sure that animal stays healthy, and this means regular health checks are in order. As well as health checks there are also procedures that may need carrying out such as nail clipping and ear cleaning, and medical equipment that may need to be worn such as muzzles. The problem is that sometimes these procedures can actually be stressful on a dog; we have all heard of dogs that start growling and snapping when they start having their nails cut. Training your dog using patience and positive reinforcement can completely change the dogs experience during these checks.
Why wait for your dog to already be in a stressful situation before introducing a new piece of equipment to them?
In the video connected to this article is a quick clip of Jack learning to voluntarily place his face inside his muzzle. I think this is important to do because not only does he get the choice to put his nose in but by using treats as rewards the muzzle becomes something positive and not something to be scared of. This also means that in the future if something does happen to Jack putting on the muzzle is not going to add to his already high stress levels.
This kind of behaviour is also really easy to teach. You simply start with your dogs muzzle and some treats and reward the dog whenever he shows interest in the object, then only when he touches the muzzle with his nose. Eventually you would then only reward the dog when his face was inside the muzzle and you would slowly start to reward for longer durations. As you can see in the video, Jack is very enthusiastic at putting his nose into the muzzle.
I think it is also important to teach your dog to associate these husbandry procedures as positive experiences. Nail clipping does not have to be stressful. It’s a gradual process that begins by teaching shake hands and then rewarding your dog for giving you his paw for a longer period of time. Eventually you can up the criteria and start touching his nails, then filing them with a nail file, touching each nail with nail clippers and then eventually cutting one nail at a time. If it gets too much and he is pulling his paw away then stop. Take everything at the dogs pace, he will very quickly become a lot more comfortable with the process if you stop when he tells you that he’s had enough, even if that means you can only clip one nail at a time.
The most important thing to remember is to give your dog a choice.
Overall it is the same principle they use in zoos to get their animals health checked easily; getting an animal to open their mouth wide to examine teeth, stepping on a big wooden scale for a weigh in, and offering paws up on the cage wall to inspect feet and claws. None of these animals are forced into any part of these regular rituals and neither should dogs be.