Making the Unusual Comfortable
What we think is normal isn't for your dog
Basic things like brushing our hair, taking selfies with friends, getting nails done, and even something as simple as hugging and kissing are completely normal for us they are very weird for dogs. These different activities are full of scary noises, sights, and smells, not to mention body language that just screams danger to a dog. Many put up with it and wing it as long as they see that we are happy but others can get quite distressed or even lash out in such scary situations. Ideally we can start working with a puppy early enough so that none of these things really bothers them from the get go, but that is no good to the 4 year old rescue dog who has never seen a camera or pair of scissors before!
The basic approach is the same across the board but there are a few differences to consider for each. The main thing to remember is to start slowly, make it easy on your dog and build difficulty slowly. So we find where your dog is comfortable starting and as they are successful/comfortable with that new experience, gradually make it more difficult, making every exposure and good experience. This is all very vague and abstract so do have a look at some of our examples below.
We look at a number of different examples:
Doggy Body Language
A good rule of thumb is to break the problem down:
- Think of a list of things about this new experience
- Go through each thing on the list, and make exposure to it (in gradually increasing steps) always the best thing in the world
- Avoid molly-coddling your dog, but do give moral support
- If your dog is uncomfortable, make it easier!
- If your dog is delighted, keep going
- Keep exposure sessions relatively short to begin with and gradually increase duration