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Grab the Collar, Getting your dog used to being handled

Some useful tips from the South Downs Dog Trainer

As someone who has worked with many thousands of dogs and their owners, and owned well over 32 German Shepherds - many of these were rescues, I thought I would put together some helpful handling ideas for our dog owners.

Feel your collar!!

At no point should a child or children be allowed to do this exercise!!

This little exercise helps desensitize your dog to having their collar grabbed, to perhaps being moved around via his collar. Maybe your dog needs to get used to having hands reaching from all angles.

Sometimes, this can be due to an emergency – sadly there maybe times when your dog has to be grabbed when something is going wrong. (We only have to think about the situation at the moment, where maybe the emergency services visit - and I have spoken to many firemen and women,in the past, who have had to grab a dog when rescuing them!)

So many dogs learn to keep the collar away from their human, as it usually means the leash is going to get attached and their fun has finished. We have to now change the meaning to our dog.

We start by calling our dog using a treat. Reach for the collar and then reward while still holding it. You may have to start by just waving your hand near your dog and reward but usually by having some yummy food, curiosity will build up and they will approach. Don’t start by grabbing, do it gently. The grabbing comes later.

Over a period of days, you can build up your dog’s trust, so that they know that the grab means a treat – never ever do it without a treat. You are trying to build trust and if you break that, you have to start again, and it will take twice as long.

Add a cue word – what are you going to say – “Give me that collar”, “Lead on” or what?

Your cue will be handy later when you need to call your dog – in fact I have known dog’s being taught the cue word as the recall word.

I always teach a recall by finishing off by holding the collar as you attach the lead.

Once your dog has got used to all this, you may like to make the command a little louder, with a bit more panic in it? Most importantly, is that it is still fun for your dog.

Make it a game and your dog will thank you for it.


Handling and prepare your dog for

the groomer.

Once you have your dog happy for you to handle them and moving them by their collar, then we can introduce much more invasive handling. This is ideal if you have a dog that is likely to be near children. They all want to hug their dog – you should prepare your dog for this.

Start by touching all over and gradually increase the pressure – when you can hug your dog, keeping them on the floor and away from your face, then you can carefully introduce your dog to being handled. The more time you can give to this, the easier it will be for your dog and they may even learn to enjoy it.

Take it slowly and don’t wait until the day you need to take your dog to the Vet or Groomer – start now. Groom every day with a brush and then stroke with your hand. Once your dog is happy, introduce the idea of looking at their teeth, and eyes and ears. Now lets teach them to give each paw whilst you check them.


Yes, there is a fun aspect to this, but also an important exercise as dog’s claws grow and need trimming. You need to either do this yourself – get your vet nurse to show you how, or ask your groomer to do it for you.

First with a treat in your hand, place it on your dog’s nose and then gently lift the paw – saying Paw.

Repeat twice more with that paw and then move to the other one. Do it three times with this paw and after each time reward. Finish for the day.

Next day, start with one paw and then the other. Reward after both paws have been touched. Do it three times each paw.

Next day, try holding the paw instead of touching – if they are already giving you paw – well done. You are on the way to teaching your dog to do it on command. Apply no pressure to the paw and make sure you rewarding your dog.

Next day, this time start at the beginning again, but each time hold the paw and touch each of the claws, one at a time – reward after each paw has been done. Now try and do the same with the back paws – remember start at the beginning by just touching to begin with.

Important – Take this slowly, but do not allow your dog to dictate to you. Don’t give up but also don’t put so much pressure on yourself or your dog. To begin with it may take up to 30 minutes per paw to get it right. Remember no pressure, just wait and let your dog relax before you move on.

This is important to teach, as when summer comes, you may need to check for seeds and things stuck in your dog’s paws. Sadly many dogs also cut their pads and need treatment – if your dog has got used to you handling them, the treatment can be so much easier for everyone. And finally, once your dog is happy, then there is no excuse for muddy paw prints all over the kitchen floor – you can dry them off by the door. A win, win for everyone!


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