Today I’m going a little deeper into this subject. It’s quite common for certain dogs to have an attitude about certain parts of their body. For example, many dogs dislike anyone near their paws, which makes a major drama of clipping their nails or merely investigating the source of lameness. If you don’t do something about it from early on, this can develop into a major issue until you become very nervous about going anywhere near your pet’s paws.
You know the signs: you go to touch your dog’s paw or toes and he moves it. You persist, and he places that particular paw under another part of his body, while fixing you with a beady eye, and if you keep going, maybe a low growl. So you back off thinking you’ll do it another time. But you’ve already lost the battle!
Let’s start again! You have a paw-sensitive dog/puppy. Find a high value treat that he can’t resist and preferably one or two larger pieces that you can hold while he nibbles at them. Start off by stroking him down his back. Then move to stroke down a front leg but don’t go close to his paws. As you’re stroking the leg, offer him a treat from the other hand. Do that a few times until he’s looking for the treat. Then move off to the other front leg. And then do the same with the hind legs.
That’s it for the first time. Now take him out for a game or walk. All he remembers is treats and fun! How good is that?
Next day, you do the same thing. But this time your hand brushes down to the paw. If you’re doing it correctly, he should forget to pull his foot away. If not, then go back to just stroking his legs and giving him treats. With a very sensitive dog, you may have to spend a few days doing just that.
Then, you try again. But this time you have a larger treat that you can hold on to while he nibbles at the other end. You’re changing your dog’s focus by doing it this way and you avoid making an issue of touching his paws. With practice, you should then be able to hold his paw, gently squeeze it while all the time feeding him treats or letting him nibble at a larger one.
You can adopt these same tactics if you have a dog that’s over-sensitive about his rear end and/or tail. But in this instance, I would sit beside your dog and not facing him or having to lean over him with your face too close to his teeth! And I would take as much time as needed to get this one right.
These simple tactics will make life much easier for you and your dog especially if you have to take him to the vet with any problem involving those aforementioned parts of his body. There’s nothing more stressful for your dog – and you – if you have to suddenly muzzle him because he’s growling or snapping as the vet tries to examine him. All he remembers from that is fear, anger and a firm dislike at being handled!
Another point to remember is that a sudden change in behaviour in your dog needs investigating. If, until that point, he has previously been comfortable with handling anywhere on his body including his mouth but suddenly starts giving warning signals, he’s telling you there’s a problem!
As an example of this, a man called me to say that his beautiful male collie had snapped a couple of times at his wife when she stroked him. He’d never done it prior to that. It transpired from our conversation that he had only snapped when she stroked him around the head and she was now getting nervous of him. I said I’d be glad to help but his dog first needed to have a check up with the vet. He rang me back that evening. His vet had found an abscess in the dog’s mouth. The dog was fearful of the pain and the snap was a warning to stay clear of his mouth! All quite understandable in the circumstances.
So, take time so that your dog enjoys being handled at best or at least remains neutral to your touch or that of a vet. It’ll pay dividends in the end.