By Mitzi Parrish
Last month we addressed the first 3 out 12 Behavioral Problems and Solutions; the Disconnected, Incorrect Handling and the Alpha Dog. In this series we will address the Cage Biter and First Time Groom.
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Sample Behavioral Problems & Solutions, continued from March 10, 2010 post
4) CAGE BITERS
This is a term given to dogs who do not like to come out of the cage. Sometimes a dog will be shy and scared when he is put in the cage. The cage becomes his territory and he feels safe as long as he is in the cage. The problem is when you have to get him out of the cage and then he becomes a “fear biter”. A fear biter will bite you because they are scared. Once the dog is out of the cage, usually he will be OK and will become a nice dog again. You will just have to deal with getting him out of the cage without being bitten. One way to get them out is to take a leash and loop them around the neck. Once you have the leash around their neck, pull their head gently to the left by holding the leash tight with your left hand to keep their head away from you (to avoid them biting you) and then take your right hand and wrap it around their body to pick them up in your arms. Once you have them in your arms they usually settle down (they know you have them in your control). After you are aware they are cage biters, put the information on their card so next time you will know to put them in a cage with a leash so you can lead or pull them out safely. (Be careful. You must observe the dog and make sure he won’t pull on the leash and cause injury.)
5) FIRST TIME GROOM
The first groom can be a traumatic experience if the pet is not handled properly (as I explained under the bad grooming experience). There are two things you have to achieve quickly in the beginning. First, you will have to establish your Alpha position. Second, the dog needs to understand you are not going to hurt him with the noisy clippers. He has to get used to the feeling and the noise of the clipper so he can calm down and relax for his grooming. There is not an easy way to accomplish this feat.
As always you need to see and understand things as a dog sees them. His owner leaves him in a strange place with strange people. This makes him somewhat apprehensive to begin with. A stranger puts him in a cage and then comes to get him out of the cage. He is put on a table and then a noisy clipper comes at him. The dog will feel afraid, and this fear will overtake him. Now you can understand why the dog is strongly resisting you. He thinks he is fighting for his life. The dog is not going to submit to your Alpha position. At this point, he is more afraid of the clippers than you. The easiest, safest and quickest way to get the first timers over their fear is to approach their face area first.
The dog’s most vulnerable area is their head and neck and he knows it. You would think that it would be best to leave this area until last and do the other parts first so he would get used to the clippers and being groomed. Wrong! If you leave the head until last he will resist on every part of the groom, he has now figured out his life is not in danger and he is somewhat braver now. When you do get to the head he will try to resist you harder than if you had started there first. The dog’s head is the main battle area to get the dog over his fear quickly and to establish the Alpha position at the same time. The dog needs to know you are not going to hurt him and the quicker he knows it the better it is for him and you. There is not an easy way to accomplish this, but the quickest and the most effective way is to make sure you have him in a secure control position.
The “Last Resort” control position may end up being the safest position and the one that he cannot break away from (usually you can control young puppies yourself, but with older dogs you may need assistance). After you make sure the hold is secure, get ready for the battle. The dog will strongly resist and try to break free from your hold. Hold his head securely and talk to him in a loving and soothing manner (he will hear you even though he is scared and resisting). Turn on the clipper and use the side of the clipper (not the blade area) to rub all over his face and head (like you are petting him with it) and continue to do this until he settles down.
The first part of this method will make him react strongly, but as soon as he realizes you a re not going to hurt him he will settle down some. This is the same method you will have to use whether you do the head first or leave it to the last. The dog has to relax and submit before you can safely groom him. Using this method will let the dog know you are bigger and stronger. But at some point he will realize you are not going to hurt him. It also establishes your position as the Alpha dog.
This technique instills respect, not fear, in the dog. This message is clear and has meaning for the dog. It is one he can understand and accept since it is the way dogs communicate. Most of the time when you do the head first the dog will submit without too much (if any) resistance on the other parts of his body. One of the reasons for this is he is so thankful you did not hurt him on the head, anything else you do is mild compared to his head experience. Also, he is still getting over the shock of realizing he is OK. Try to think what it would be like if you had just gone through this traumatic experience. All of a sudden, when you thought you were being attacked (with the noisy clippers); you realized you were all right. It would take you awhile to clear your thoughts.
I know this does not sound like the best method for the first time grooms but I assure you it is, for you and the dog. In all of my years of grooming I have found this to be the quickest and the safest method for the dog’s first time groom, and it helps to prepare him for his future grooms, too. The dog will return with a good imprint. He was not hurt, the fear was removed and he acquired respect for the Alpha groomer who groomed him. The dog will come in for his grooming without fear. He understands that he is not going to be hurt and that he has to submit and behave. It is good for him and you. Now you can safely groom him and both of you can enjoy the groom.
Well I hate to leave it at this. I will continue this subject next month in “Behavioral Problems & Solutions Part 3”
Until then take care and enjoy!