Cooperative Husbandry Dog Training
Updated: Jun 12
Husbandry is the care and maintenance that is required to keep our dogs happy and healthy. This can include nail trimming, ear cleaning, grooming, teeth cleaning, eye drops the list goes on.
This is one area of dog training that is often overlooked, many owners when bringing home a new puppy home will just get on with any sort of grooming, or teething brushing etc because that is what the puppy needs. They spend very little time preparing the puppy for these procedures which can then cause a lot of stress and unhappiness to the puppy. It should be said that this is normally through no fault of the owner, they simply don't know that there is a better way to do this.
Cooperative care training involves teaching the dog that they have a choice in the matter, they can willingly participate or not, ultimately giving them a voice. One of the most important parts of this training is that the dog is able to say no, if they feel stressed, overwhelmed or unhappy with any part of the activity then they can say no and the session stops there.
Research has shown that having some control over an unpleasant event not only applies to humans but all animals. Teaching a dog that they have a choice in the situation will increase their confidence, reduce stress and fear and build up their tolerance.
There are many ways in which you can work on husbandry training, my favourites include
The Bucket Game by Chirag Patel
A chin rest
A start button behaviour
The Bucket Game
To learn more about the Bucket Game and watch me take you through the steps then follow this link
Here is an example of me using the Bucket Game to apply Lunas Flea treatment. At any point if she looks away from the bucket of treats then I stop what I am doing, I can only continue with it if she re-engages with the bucket.
A Chin Rest
Raise your hand palm up to your dog's chin, as soon as you make contact with their chin, say 'Yes' and reward. Repeat around 10 times. (all you are rewarding here is the contact of your palm to their chin)
Move your hand up close to your dog's chin, but don’t touch their chin. Wait to see if your dog offers the behaviour of touching their chin to your palm, if this happens mark with 'Yes' then reward.
If they don't offer the behaviour then go to step 1 again.
You can also use a food lure to lower their chin onto your palm. Simply place your hand under their chin and with the other hand move a treat downwards in front of your hand for your dog to follow, your dog should lower their chin to your hand with more pressure.
Repeat whichever method works.
When your dog starts trying to put her chin in your hand without the lure you can add the cue chin. Then to add duration mark and reward after 1 second instead of just touching, then two and three…and so on.
Building a chin rest into Husbandary training requires first working on duration for the behaviour and building up a reliable verbal cue. I then progress by working on a chin rest behaviour to a cushion or my leg, this way you have two free hands to do any husbandry work.
First of all, you are looking for a few seconds duration for the chin rest, once this is reliable you can begin to add in small distracting movements. For example, sit on the floor in front of your dog, keep one hand on your knee, and give your 'Chin' cue, once your dog's chin is resting on your hand or the cushion then subtly lift one finger off your knee, IF the dog's chin remained in chin position then mark and reward but IF the dog lifted their head to look at your finger then stop and start again but next time make it easier by making it less distracting. Over time your dog will start to understand that they are being rewarded for remaining in the chin position. Then you can incorporate a brush, drop bottle etc. There are many great videos on Youtube to guide you through the next few stages.
Here I am working on cleaning Luna's ear while she offers me a chin rest, if at any point her chin lifts from the cushion then I will stop what I am doing and only start again if she rests her chin back onto the cushion.
A Start Button Behaviour A start button behaviour is a behaviour that the dog does in order to say ‘yes’ to something else happening. The dog is in complete control of the session.
Click here to watch my working with Shoyo, she was worried about getting into the boot of the car so we worked on a start button behaviour for this.
Our start button was Shoyo coming on to a blanket with her four paws, we spent time rewarding her for stepping onto the blanket and then sending her off, we also had a Freework station set up so she could choose to disengage. After a few repetitions Shoyo would offer to come onto the blanket and she then (by herself) put her paws on the boot ledge, so we added this into the behaviour chain. I wanted to create a predictable sequence of steps to build up to Shoyo being lifted into the car. For me and her humans, it was important that she made the choice to 'Opt in'. This will help to build trust and cooperation!
If you are interested in learning more about this so that you can help your dog feel better about any husbandry training then please get in touch. We can work on all of these behaviours either in person or virtually.