The problem with hands

My inspiration for many years Meika.  Thanks for helping me to be a better teacher.

I recently started working with a new client and her dog.  The dog’s original owner passed away and was left with the sister.  This dog is the inspiration for this story.  I will not post names to protect the innocent( the dog’s) I was told that this dog was very shy of hands and had bitten several people even though this dog was toothless I am sure if he had teeth the bites would have been bad.  I met with my client and talked about her goals and about the dogs history with other dogs and people.  my client had been given all sorts of really bad advise as far as training for her new dog from squirting water in the dogs face to hitting the dog if he protested for grooming.  The person who had the dog before my client had groomed this dog in front of my client, she would pull out his ear hairs and eye brow hairs with tweezers and if the dog protested he was hit.  She cut his ear really bad and instead of treating the injury she pinched his ear until he screamed.  My client felt very uneasy about this approach which is why she sought out help of a more positive nature.

When I first met this dog I wanted him to feel safe so I immediately started playing a game with him called treat and retreat, a game I play with every new dog I meet regardless of what the issue is.  This very simple game helps to form some kind of a positive meeting and relationship between the dogs and myself before we start working.  I found this little guy to be very hand shy. Even though he has no teeth I treated him with the respect of a shark.  Hands are supposed to be a safe thing for dogs not a prediction of pain or punishment which is what this little guy had a lot of in his life when it came to handling.  it is very important that we teach new puppies that hands are predictable forms of reinforcement and not pain.  Still some in the pet care industry insist on doing some pretty rude things to very young puppies when it comes to normal mouthing.  One local vet told a puppy class client to grab the puppies lower jaw and squeeze really hard until the puppy let go and after the puppy screamed in protest.  Whatever happened to “do no harm”?  fortunately there are more great vets that do no harm then then the opposite and since the creation of the fear free vet visits and that certification it is getting better, just not fast enough for me and for a lot of puppies and dogs out there.

Since my first visit with my client her dog is doing much better with handling and his dog reactivity, I can touch his body and tell when he has had enough becasue he is learning he has other choice to ask for distance from the human hand which he did not know before.  I want to thank my client and her dog for being the inspiration for this story.  Remember hands can be a great tool for healing or a tool for injury.  Also remember that your dog is capable of hurting you everyday and chooses not too becasue of many different things which are beyond the scope of the story.  Please if you feel the need to ever hit your dog remember that fact that this animal could hurt you but could also save your life in an emergency.  Teach your dog or any animal that hands are safe and not to be feared, practice safe handling and give the same respect to your dog, cat horse or whatever you have and the rewards will be many.  Teach your dog that hands are not safe and you will get what you might not expect.

Thank you to Micha for being the inspiration for this story.