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Touch, hold, brush and carry

Touch, hold, brush and carry

Many dogs do not like being touched, held, subdued or brushed, some find it unrewarding and just refuse to put up with it, but some are frightened. There is a lot of evidence I have witnessed to suggest that much of what I see in behaviour consults is the result of poor conditioning.

There is a section of the Canine brain known as the Amygdala that is responsible for the conditioned responses that are paired with events, circumstances or items that should be feared, therefore the Amygdala also plays a big part in the Flight / Fight responses of the animal.

What I aim to do here is to teach the dog that being held, firm, being unable to move or escape pressure is no reason to panic, or become Claustrophobic so to speak. In pups I have conditioned this way their responses to aversive stimuli and fearful circumstance is much more controlled and managed on board by the dog.

The implementation of the Biosensor Program I use from 3 days old helps begin this process when pups are inverted and placed into the supine position.

So given the fact that I have already started this, we will be carrying on from that conditioning. Some things first to be aware of: –

1, It is best when you don’t have a lot of experience with dogs, it can be a great idea to start this in front of a mirror, so you can see the expression on the dogs face, rather than wait until the dog panics and starts wrestling. At the point of wrestle you have pushed the limits beyond the dogs comfort zone.

2, Understand the power of positive conditioning. If you want to get the puppies to overcome something pre triggering them into a drive can be helpful to set expectations. Look at this video, to achieve this I have puppies that already go into drive when I call “pup pup pup”. I have pups that go into drive when I come out side or when I have the food bowl. So I go outside, cue “pup pup pup” and show them a food bowl and they smash through this very startling noise with unstable surface. This would send most pups into full flight but you can see the hard nerved, high drive pups I breed aren’t slightly fazed. So if you want to do something that adds some stress, layer it just behind a reward such as food.

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3, Teach the criteria in a hierarchy, in other words just do a small part of the exercise first then progressively increase the criteria until the dog understands the whole exercise.

Let’s get started with the hold exercise…

I will start with puppies that are young when I breed them but you may have a breeder that doesn’t do much of this, so we will start as if it has never been done.

Sit on the floor and encourage your pup top come over to you, you might offer some food even or run this off the back of a time when your pup just walked over to you.

I will be sitting on the floor and I will be leaning against something like a wall. Then when the pup comes in between my legs I raise my knees up so the pup is between them.

I will then off a piece of food and as the puppy nibbles this out of my hand, my knees will move closer together, effectively touching the pup with both insides of my thighs.

I will slowly increase the pressure and watch for the pup to realise there is pressure there, when I see the pup become distracted I will stop increasing the pressure and simply maintain it.

It is important not to back off the pressure if possible the moment the pups shows reaction to it, this will teach the pup to react.

Instead keep the food coming but raise the desire for food by moving it just outside the pups reach.

Maintain this pressure for 5 – 10 seconds then slowly release it.

Next, and this can be done in the same exercise or on another occasion, start sitting the same way again and offer some food off to the far right or left. As the puppy starts to nibble at it, move the food under your knee so the puppy has to crawl under your knee to get it, this is a nice way to start teaching the down or drop position also.

As the puppy tries to get the food you move it under your legs and out the other side, lowering your knee now to provide resistance. The puppy has to push under your knee, crawl and go out the other side.

If the puppy backs out show the food again and have the knee position higher so there is less resistance.

When the puppy comes out the other side, get another piece of food and raise it up so the puppy has to crawl onto your lap and between your knees to get the food, resistance is created by now raising your knees close to your chest.

If you haven’t guessed yet I am also dissolving any personal space issues the pup thinks you may have.

These exercises should be run until this is a cool game your pup loves, for some dogs this will take no time at all, one session perhaps, others it may take a number of sessions. Those pups slow to get comfortable with this program will benefit the most, so don’t give up.

Once your pup IS  comfortable,. we need to move on, this means I will get the puppy to come onto my lap, perhaps after food and I will now have the pup start from behind me and come between my ribs and arm. I will be feeding with the other hand. When the pup is in there I will clamp the pup with my arm against my side, increase pressure, decrease pressure, several times whilst feeding.

I’m looking for a pup that is really fine with this and will keep eating. Understand I’m not squeezing the life out of the pup.

I will then place the puppy on my lap and onto its back, where I will tickle its belly, feed etc. all whilst increasing and decreasing pressure.


Get your grooming rake now and hold it between the tip if your index finger and tip of your thumb, we want light pressure on the rake so not to hurt the pup.

Next call the puppy between your legs with knees up, feed as normal and close knees now holding your calm pup. Run the rake through the dogs coat and down the back, in line with way the hair grows.

Puppies will often want to bite the rake, and this often starts people hitting them with the brush. May sound harsh but it is often the move of an experienced groomer.

You can avoid these types of things by holding your pup between your legs, feeding and bushing until the pup relaxes, its then the pressure from my legs will drop away and I will brush the sides.

If the pup goes to bite the rake I will offer food and or raise my knees again.

I would repeat this exercise a lot, it is very helpful for teaching a puppy to relax in your arms and expect something good. This is vitally important when your dog needs care, is injured or you need to hold it still for a reason.


There are certain places that dogs don’t feel like being touched, often the paws are one area and the tail another. This presents two problems, the first is the tail has “pull me” written on it in code that only children can read, the second is that we may want to teach our dog foot position or even to shake hands and this can cause an issue of the dog is foot sensitive.

Through the above technique you can teach the pup to anticipate reward when its tail is pulled, think about when you were applying side pressure above with your knees and using food to teach the pup that it is ok to feel this pressure. The same applies with the tail and feet.

Hold the tail and hold a paw, feed, progress to gentle pulling of the feet and tail and reward reward reward.

Pick at the nails etc and feed feed feed.

You’re not trying to aggravate the pup or stimulate biting or play, just pull, feed, pull then stop, look for a pup that says “hey, where is the food?”

The rewards in this program are presented “Classically”, by this I mean we aren’t marking behaviour with a clicker or release word, were putting food in the dogs mouth at the location of the behaviour.

This provides us with a Classically Conditioned value to the exercise, not a higher drive focussed view of us. Remember that doing nothing until your pup reacts badly to having its tail touched means you have missed the window to teach the pup this is ok,. but now are in the position where you will need to desensitize.

Teaching takes minutes, desensitization can take a lifetime.

Let’s see some pictures of you running this exercise with your pup on the forum!

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