Tips to make handling easier

Now that we’ve created a Conditioned Emotional Response (see the tool, get happy, expect food), let’s move on to creating this same magical feeling with touching their paws. 

Put the tool away and sit with your dog. We’re going to get them cosy with being touched and we’re going to gradually turn it into paw/nail handling. 

First, let’s talk about some tips to make this easier.

Start out with something they like and really get them into the whole “touching thing”. Find the spot that they can’t reach and scratch it. That spot on either side of their spine, halfway down their back. Under the collar. The base of their tail / lower back. The front of their shoulders. Scratching these spots can make them feel good and you can adjust your pressure and intensity based on their body language. You want to see them contorting and leaning into it. When that back leg starts going, you’re doing it right. 

Use gradual touch. You’ll find that if you just touch part of your dog’s body out of the blue, they might startle a little and have to reset. If you use gradual touch, running your hand from one spot to another in a gradual motion with the same amount of pressure, they’re likely more forgiving and comfortable since it’s more predictable and less startling.  

You might find that giving a verbal predictor prior to handling makes it easier for your dog. In a soft voice, and only once, say “picking up your paw” (or whatever you want to say) and then run your hand from shoulder to paw or hip to paw and pick up the paw. Remember that gradual touch! 

If you have two people who can do this together, even easier! You both have to be on the same page and to be able to communicate well and in a timely manner. If one person says “picking up” and then picks up the paw, the other can start to feed. When the handler lets go of the paw, they can say “letting go” which will notify the feeder right away so they can stop feeding.