Animal Behavior Network

Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

Invest just minutes daily learning how to raise the dog of your dreams and a best friend for life!

Need Help? 

Call 1-800-372-3706
to speak to a Veterinary Behavior Technician

Paws To Speak!

Member Main Menu

Pet Gentling and Relaxation




Positive Restraint


Help is at your fingertips by library, email and phone.

Click on Library Icon
to learn more

All Pets | Topics by Age | Topics by Category | All Dogs | Media Center |    Print

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 here

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.

If 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.

Do 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.

The 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 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
always discouraged and never recommended!

Positive restraint

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 aggressive.

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 controlling 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 as possible.

Resistant dogs

If your dog enjoys treats, 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.  

The goal 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 exercises. 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 soon 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.

Improving Relationships between People and Pets!

MyABN         Library         Contact ABN         Privacy Policy

Copyright 2001-Present All Rights Reserved Dr. Rolan and Susan Tripp | Animal Behavior Network & Affiliates