As we head into the “Dog Days of Summer” we become very aware that the hot, sticky weather can put limitations on the ability to get outside and play with our dogs.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to spend some quality time together. There are plenty of indoor games to play and tricks to be taught, but a bonding opportunity that is often overlooked is the time spent grooming your dog.
A grooming routine can enhance your dog’s well being and your relationship. Simple tasks like brushing and combing build trust and can be very relaxing once the dog learns how to be still for the process.
In the early stages of learning, most dogs don’t immediately “like” being put through a grooming routine. They fuss and squirm and sometimes mouth and nip. Those behaviors are normal, dogs don’t instinctively know that the brush or bath won’t hurt them so they show hesitation and often fight the process. Unfortunately, most people view the resistance as “stubborn” and never really take the time to work through the process. It is important to go slowly, and build up a dog’s confidence in being handled and touched.
The time we spend petting our dogs doesn’t really count as “teaching them to be handled and touched.” I am referring to time and effort put into teaching a dog to hold still and trust being bathed, brushed, combed, having their nails trimmed, teeth brushed or ears cleaned.
It is a process like any other aspect of training and all too often owners give up as soon as they encounter resistance. Soon the familiar cry of “he doesn’t like it” becomes the excuse for not doing the work to teach the dog how to handle these minor stresses.
Imagine if our parents would have thrown in the towel the first time we protested having our teeth brushed or hair washed when we were little? They didn’t give up, they patiently persevered and we learned it wasn’t an experience to be terrified of. Eventually grooming routines became something we enjoyed or at the very least tolerated without unnecessary stress.
The same is true for our dogs. With patience and daily practice they too can learn that being groomed isn’t as scary as they first thought. Many dogs learn to love being brushed, bathed and having their teeth cared for.
So, for the month of August, I encourage you to challenge yourself to do a little bit each day. You’re already sitting and petting the dog so how about 3 minutes of brushing while you feed a couple treats or trim 2 toenails tonight while they lick some peanut butter from a spoon? Or a few minutes of belly rubs while you check the body over for lumps, bumps, rashes or other possible problems. The more you get into a routine of looking over your dog and knowing what normal looks like, the easier it is to spot potential problems early if they pop up.
Exert a tiny bit of perseverance and work through the resistance for the next 31 days. I bet by the end of the month you’ll have a dog that is much more tolerant AND possibly even looks forward to that grooming time spent together.