Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Slow Down, You're Doing Fine

Worked with two clients this week who needed a gentle reminder to slow down.  It's not a race to see who can groom their dog the fastest, trim the most nails in one sitting, or get the harness on a puppy before they wiggle away.  In fact, if you slow it down, breaking those everyday tasks into smaller pieces, you'll find that getting things done for your pets goes a lot more smoothly.  

For many dogs, putting on the harness or leash is a time of heightened arousal.  They may be excited, barking and running around trying to speed up the process, or they may be running away from you making it take longer.  Stop chasing them and definitely stop leashing up a dog who is barking, jumping, or pulling you to the door.  Slow down.  Bring out the leash.  Stand still.  Wait for your dog to approach you (don't say come or here!) on their own.  Reach toward them with the collar, harness, or leash. If they race off, just stay where you are. If they back away, don't lunge for them! Make putting on the leash or harness calmly the goal.  Use those high value treats and reward standing for the harness or sitting for the buckle of the collar.  Attach the leash now. If they take off running once the leash is on, just drop the leash and stay where you are.  Wait for your dog to come back.  With a treat in your hand get their attention and then walk around in a circle or figure eight, with your dog at your side, dragging their leash.  Don't pick up that leash and head for the door until your dog is more calmly attentive.  If you go out the door with an over-excited dog, that sets the tenor of your walk right from the start. 

I meet a lot of dogs who are reactive at the vet's office or for their grooming appointments.  Some folks who groom their pets at home report being unable to brush certain areas on their dogs or cats, brush teeth, or trim/dremel nails. I know I've talked before about the importance of teaching cooperative care to puppies and kittens for trips to the vet's office, but the same applies to grooming.  Don't try to trim all of those nails in one sitting if that's too much for your dog or cat.  Better to trim one each day and have your pet cooperate than to wrestle with them and make the whole thing a giant negative experience they won't soon forget.  This is true for older pets as much as it's true for young ones; slow down. Take your time.  Use treats.  Take breaks.  Always end on a positive note.  While it's fine to have someone help you hold your pet for nails, teeth, or ears, they should simply be holding your pet in place, not actively restraining them.  Maybe set your pet up on a towel on a table (I LOVE my grooming table!), treats at the ready, and your other human assistant there to monitor the treat delivery to help ensure you are rewarding compliance with the grooming tasks, and not bribing your pets into acceptance of their fate.  

Taking care of your pet's needs shouldn't be a mental to-do list with you trying to check things off as quickly as possible.  Break down those tasks into smaller, easier to swallow pieces for them, particularly when it comes to experiences that make them anxious or reactive. And, as always, if you have questions about your pet's behavior, you know where to find me. 

Grooming collies takes time and patience.  Just ask Ozzie who always needs 
a snack and then a nap following his weekly home grooming sessions.

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