Why do it?
You can teach dogs to relax
and trust being handled by
people by practicing daily gentling
exercises and body massage.
Gentling exercises teach the dog
to accept positive human
leadership and trust humans and
human hands. Gentling exercises
build the dog's
ability to comply with bathing,
grooming, treatments and
veterinary exams. For more
information on how to get
started with these gentling
Body massage teaches dogs that hands
are good things, and to allow
people to take charge and control any part of the
dog's body during routine
care, lifting or moving the dog.
the dog becomes tense, moves
away, mouths your hand, acts frightened or aggressive
during gentling exercises or massage, your are progressing too quickly. Go back
to shorter sessions with treats when the dog is very hungry. Only give treats
for compliance. Praise cooperation.
NOT do alpha rollovers
When the dog
accepts and enjoys body massage
and having his or her limbs moved
through the normal range of motion,
the next exercise is
called "positive restraint."
A hug is one example of positive restraint.
The concept of positive restraint
means holding the dog still against
his or her will, without the dog
showing stress or panic.
goal is for the dog to perceive
a firm hug and being cradled
like a baby - as positive attention. Do not confuse
this exercise with the "old
school" concept of doing an "alpha
roll over" to gain
leadership. An alpha roll
over is a technique that was
recommended at one time for the
purpose of dominating an aggressive
or dominant dog in the context
of winning the fight for control.
In this scenario, the alpha roll
over was done in anger; pushing
the dog down and forcing the dog
on his or her back in an attempt
to take over a leadership role.
This is fraught with danger to
the pet owner of an adult dog,
and in the puppy, may confuse
and threaten the pup and damage
the relationship. Therefore, using
an alpha rollover is
discouraged and never recommended!
A gentle, short
hug is an extension of the gentle,
loving massage and body manipulations. Hug your
dog a little longer each time.
If the dog struggles, hold more
firmly. Release the second the
dog relaxes. If the dog becomes upset,
you have gone too fast, too far.
Back up and
begin more slowly. You
want the dog to experience a
small amount of stress to allow
the dog to learn frustration
tolerance and handle small
amounts of stress without acting fearful or
Once the dog can be hugged easily,
try holding the dog on his
or her side for a few seconds.
(Ask your veterinarian or animal
behaviorist to show you how to
do this in such a way that you
have the control and the dog is
most comfortable.) The dog should be
relaxed as he or she is held down.
At first, every dog
will struggle for a few seconds as a result
of the normal "righting reflex."
This righting reflex is what helps
the dog spring back to his or
her feet if knocked over accidentally.
It is permissible to hold the
dog down through the righting
reflex while calming your body
so that you are not, in any way,
communicating a threat. In dog
language, hugging and holding
are very dominant gestures. For some dogs,
progress happens gradually over time.
Be cautious, gentle, and patient.
It is best to start all gentling
exercises with young puppies as early
If your dog enjoys
offer a food treat
with one hand while holding down
the dog with the other. If the
dog refuses to be held down on
his or her side, try holding the
dog on your lap or on another
surface. Also, you can try holding
the dog down on his or her side
when he or she is already
resting, giving calm praise.
Never surprise or startle the
dog with gentling exercises.
is to be able to have the
dog be relaxed and happy
while being held down on his
or her side. This is a sign
that the dog now trusts you.
The "end point goal"
is to have the dog become so relaxed
while restrained that the dog will fall
asleep. The dog must
learn, very gradually, that he or she is not allowed
to get up until released. Positive restraint is one of
the more difficult gentling
Therefore, it is important to
go slowly. Use food treats during
the process to reassure the dog that nothing
is wrong. Praise the dog for acceptance
of any restraint.
as the dog begins to relax,
let the dog up.
You give back his or her freedom
with praise and a cookie. You show
the dog that you are NOT trying to hurt the
dog. After a few seconds of freedom,
ask the dog to sit, lie down,
and then roll over onto his or
her side again. If the dog will
relax for just a few seconds,
give another cookie and stop the
session for that day.