Some Free Dog Body Handling Tips to Prevent Nipping

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 10, 2024

Melvin SM Corgi - Some Free Dog Body Handling Tips to Prevent Nipping

We shared several dog body handling tips to help 6 year-old Corgi Melvin who has nipped a few people when they try to touch his nails or examine him.

Melvin doesn’t like when people touch his paws during exams and he also has some food guarding problems. We spent a good period of time discussing where resource guarding behavior comes from, what to do and most specifically what not to do. Luckily, Melvin has great guardians who already know a good deal about how to read his body language.

We went over a dog consent lesson to help understand how dogs feel when touched. We also had a detailed discussion about dog body language, which is important for handling dogs. Recognizing when a dog is starting to feel uncomfortable is really important anytime you have a dog with a guarding or nipping behavior. Especially for dogs with a fear of body handling.

We also went over some different ways to get Melvin some exercise and mental stimulation. Enrichment can be a wonderful tool to help keep dogs engaged and happy. These can help drain energy, distract the dog and cultivate problem solving skills which can increase confidence.

Dog body Handling Tips

Many dogs bite when being handled due to a lack of early socialization. Thats when you want to touch your dog in a positive way so later in life so your dog is comfortable when people touch a dogs paws or other body parts. That’s not the case for Melvin though. His guardian did an amazing job of socializing him and setting him up for success as a puppy.

Unfortunately a vet who was not paying attention damaged one of Melvin’s nails and did not listen to his cut off signals forcing Melvin to nip to stop things on his own. Since then he has had dog body handling issues when being examined. This is the primary dog behavior issue they wanted my help with.

It’s always disappointing to hear of a dog professional who doesn’t listen to the dog and creates problems when they were hired to fix them instead. They should know dog cut off signals, how to hold your dog and when to give them space.

Because of Melvin’s strong reaction, I knew that I needed to go slow. Anytime you’re doing some body handling with a dog who is uncomfortable, you need to pay close attention to their cut off signals and stop immediately. But really the key is to stop before they even give a cut off signal. That’s how dogs regain their confidence and enjoy being touched again.

I handed my camera to one of the guardians so that she could film going over a positive dog body handling exercise with Melvin. If you have a dog that doesn’t like having its paw touched or examined, you should definitely check out the free positive dog training video below.

In retrospect, I wish I would’ve ran through this counter conditionig / desensitizzation exercise earlier in the session. Melvin was giving cut off signals very early in the process which prevented us from moving forward as far or as quickly as I would have liked. But it did bring up an important lesson for anyone about how to hold your dog.

Often we are focused on the end goal instead of the path in front of us. But going slow and successful is much more important when helping a dog get over a fear of body handling. Once a dog looses trust, you need to move forward slowly to help your dog tolerate being touched again. Dog owners need to make sure they proceed using positive reinforcement to help change the dog’s emotional response.

There is a difference between how we hold our dog and how you pet your dog. One involves restraint so you need to be observant and watch for cut off signals. But even when you got ot pet your dog, its important to watch for any indications your dog doesnt like the touch.

Next I went over an exercise that we call body handling while feeding. However it was quickly apparent that this was not the right exercise for Melvin, at least at this point. I quickly switched gears recognizing that there were a few other exercises that would be better.

Because of Melvin’s food gardening issue, I went over a couple of other exercises that can help. The bucket game where we gradually lower a bowl of food and Its Yer Choice where a handful of treats gets closer to a dog’s mouth while they stay in a. sit. These are slower exercises where the food is further away from the dog which should prevent the guarding from occurring.

We teach a body handling exercise in our puppy class and I promised the guardians I would include a link here so that they could watch it. This is basically the same thing I was doing in the video above, however becaubecause of Mel’s discomfort I had to go much slower. I wanted to show them the end result though so they could have a full grasp of the exercise.

This is similar to the method I used to help condition dogs to feel comfortable having their nails trimmed. Many dogs dont like their nails trimmed and since that problem is part of dog body handling, I wanted to make sure to share that tip here.

I would like the guardians to first practice the bucket game until they can get all the way down to the floor and stays in a sit. This may take a couple of weeks of practice and that’s OK.

Once Melvin can stay in a sit for the entirety of the Bucket Game, the guardians can practice the It’s Yer Choice exercise. This is a similar game but with a different direction. Neither is designed to help when someone wants to touch a dog’s paws, but they do involve food and impulse control.

I also went over a bit of a shaping feeding exercise. I had the guardian place a food bowl on the ground in between her and Melvin. Every time that Melvin looked at the bowl on his own, she put a piece of food in the bowl for him to eat. It took a couple of minutes but once Melvin figured out, he started looking at the bowl right away. This exercise will help reduce Melvin’s food guarding behavior.

We also went over a muzzle training exercise. Since this is going to be a process and we’re not sure how much we can progress, I would like Melvin to be fully muzzle trained. I want to have this safety tool in place and make sure its a positive. If you teach muzzel training right, dogs love wearing it. While some peole dont like the look, I wanted to go over it just in case they need to take Melvin to a vet before they have had a chance to finish his dog body handling exercise.

We quite a bit in this in-home Brentwood dog training session. I wanted to make sure the guardians could remember everything so I handed one of them my phone and sat down with Melvin to record a roadmap to success summary video. You can check that video out below

If Your Dog Doesnt Like Being Touched - Click Here for Help

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This post was written by: David Codr