Can you draw blood from a whale without force? Yes, you can. What about put eye drops into a sea lion's eyes with no fuss? Again, yes you can. But you have to train for it. Captive animals need physical care and can be trained with positive and effective methods to accept all sorts of handling and procedures. At a week-long workshop with Ken Ramirez at Shedd Aquarium, I observed calm and relaxed husbandry training and procedures with many species of animals. This experience inspired me to develop a similar program for dogs.
It seems that we often neglect husbandry work and focus on obedience behaviors and performance skills instead. But we need to rethink that approach. If we are lucky our dogs will be with us 15+ years, and they will need vet care and grooming on a regular basis. It is our responsibility to make these procedures as pleasant and stress free as possible. Our overriding goal is to do what is in the best interest of the dog for a happy and healthy life.
How does your dog react to nail trims? Does he let you brush his teeth without complaint? Can the groomer handle him with ease? Are vet visits enjoyable?
This course is intended to guide you through proactive husbandry training for your dog. Husbandry is a term that covers all types of necessary physical care. Grooming and veterinary procedures fall into this category. We often neglect husbandry behaviors and either ignore the possible future need or force the issue when necessary. Our goal in this class will be to teach our dogs to cooperate with us for a variety of required behaviors. We will do a quick review of operant and classical conditioning, and use both in our work.
Our ultimate goal is to have dogs who are relaxed and calm for procedures that will benefit their health and well-being. This class is appropriate for dogs of all ages (our main model is Helo who started this work at 8 weeks old) and at all levels of training. Sometimes very highly trained performance dogs have issues with being handled in certain ways.
Here's a trailer for the class!
Next session starts: April 1, 2019Registration starts: March 22, 2019Registration ends: April 15, 2019
Registration will begin at 10:30 AM Pacific Time.
Enrollment limits: Gold: 12 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited.
Gold Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to post questions and videos to the course forums. Students will receive instructor feedback on written and video assignments.
Silver Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to participate in the discussion forum. Students may ask GENERAL questions about course materials and may submit two, one-minute videos for instructor feedback. Any questions specific to your dog MUST be accompanied by a video.
Bronze Level includes access to all course materials and the ability to read all questions and answers posted in the class forums. Students will not post questions or submit written or video assignments.
For more details, refund policies, and answers to commonly asked questions see our FAQ page.
Yes Please! Cooperative Canine Care Outline
Week 1 Lecture:
Why? Husbandry behaviors for veterinary/medical procedures and grooming
Week 1 Exercises:
Full body scan diagnostic with ratings
Marker for stationary/calm behaviors
On / off table treats
The cheese bowl
The food tube
The Snuffle mat
Remote Reinforcement Devices
Ground work on impulse control:
Week 2 Lecture:
Freedom & choice
Week 2 Exercises:
On pillow or towel
With muzzle wrap
Table work on impulse control:
Types of touch (first on the ground, then on the table):
Changing intensity of touch
Poking & prodding
Week 3 Lecture:
Preparation (being proactive vs. being reactive)
Week 3 Exercises:
Eyes & Ears
Clippers & Dremel
Choice & Necessity (what you want to do vs. what you have to do)
Week 4 Exercises:
Lie down on side
Lie down on back
Week 5 Lecture:
Your relationship with your vet and groomer
Week 5 Exercises:
Week 6 Lecture:
Generalization (other people, other places)
Week 6 Exercises:
Practice vet or groomer visit
Follow-up body scan
Our conditioning work and exercises depend heavily on the use of food. Dogs in Gold spots MUST be highly food motivated.
Child's Doctor Kit (optional, but Learning Resources brand recommended)
I use this one but there are cheaper versions available with fewer pieces: https://smile.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Doctor-Set-Bag/dp/B00DIDD79C/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1526903281&sr=8-6&keywords=learning+resources+doctor+play+set
This set looks the same except for the case and is much cheaper: https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Pretend-Doctor-Piece/dp/B00009XNSY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1527292680&sr=8-2&keywords=learning%2Bresource%2Bdoctor&th=1
We highly recommend this dremel:
Table & non-slip cover/top.
(Any raised table will do. Grooming tables are nice because they allow us to stand upright and not have to bend over. But a shorter table, such as an adjustable agility pause table, might allow you to sit or use a stool at a comfortable height. An ottoman or stool might work as well as long as it's large enough for your dog to lie on comfortably.)
*If you absolutely cannot find a way to have access to a table then you can develop a dedicated husbandry training area. Use a mat or rug large enough for your dog to lie down on comfortably and keep it for this use only.
Syringes to deliver soft food: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OABXLOM/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Treats (variety of types and value levels)
Week 3 Exercises: Eyes & Ears
After your chin rest becomes strong and solid then you can add in examining your dogs eyes and ears. This can extend to eventually administering eye drops and cleaning the ears with wipes or gauze. It is not at all uncommon for dogs to need eye drops, due to injury, disease, or age. So it is reasonable for dogs to experience it in as non-traumatic a way as possible. Also, a dog’s ears may regularly need cleaned (especially with drop eared dogs) and ear infections are fairly common. So a dog with an ear infection experiences pain along with the necessity for drops or cleaning. The best thing we can do is to accustom the dog to drops and cleaning in a pleasant manner.
Typical eye exam:
Cleaning ears (work on handling ears first):
Feet & Nails
Many dogs are very sensitive about having their feet touched or manipulated. Some dogs have been expected to simply tolerate their feet being grabbed. Others have experienced “play” where the person grabs at his feet and the dog pulls his feet away. Some dogs dislike this intensely and others see it as a game. In either case, this does not lead to calmly allowing us to handle their feet and trim their nails.
Nail trimming is probably the #1 most difficult grooming procedure because dogs dislike it so much. Ideally, dogs would have their nails trimmed weekly. But because it is so difficult, many people leave it much, much longer. This is not ideal, as short nails are necessary for good foot position while walking. Long nails force the foot into an unnatural position and, over the long term, can damage muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the foot and leg.
A common problem with nail trimming is “quicking” the nail. There is a vein that carries blood supply in each nail. This vein ends before the tip. However, if you cut too much off the nail you might cut through the vein, which is painful and can lead to lots of bleeding. Have styptic powder on hand to slow the bleeding on the nail when this happens. This is traumatic both for the dog and the owner! We feel terrible when this happens and then we don’t want to continue cutting nails. The best approach is to cut small amounts from the tip of each nail regularly, rather than large amounts less often. If you cut nails regularly the vein in the nail will retract bit by bit over time.
If your dog has light nails you can likely see where the vein ends. But this is not possible if your dog has dark nails. So you have to guess. Be conservative about how much length you take off a nail at any given time to avoid the problem.
There are a variety of types and styles of nail clippers. Find a style that is comfortable for you to use. Replace them regularly as they do get dull, which means you need more pressure to clip, which likely pinches your dog.
Some people like using a nail grinder, such as a Dremel, rather than, or in addition to, clippers. The grinder can be a better choice because it takes off small amounts at a time and you are less likely to reach the vein unintentionally. It can also be used in addition to clipping to smooth down the rough edges. Some dogs are very resistant to clipping, but not grinding. However, the grinder is not without issues. In particular, since it rotates rapidly it can wrap around and catch in the hair on the dog’s foot. Also, if it accidentally hits skin while running it can cause very painful abrasions. I know this from personal experience with my own fingers! It also makes a loud noise that some dogs dislike and should be introduced slowly and carefully before using.
You'll notice that in my videos with Star I'm using a remote reinforcement device, the Pet Tutor. This allows me to have my hands free while reinforcing. This is a great solution if you don't have a second person to help you. I have also been very happy with the Treat & Train (which is MUCH cheaper). A remote reinforcement device is NOT necessary, but it does make this work much easier.
**Please note that the videos below are a representation of different stages of work with feet and nails. There is no way to provide a comprehensive tutorial on this from start to finish without including 1000 videos! Gold students should talk to me about where they are in this process and we will discuss an appropriate starting point for you.
Star foot handling (and nail grinder separately):
Star foot handling with pressure:
Helo’s first nail clipping:
Nail clipping with the never-ending cheese bowl:
More clipping with the cheese bowl:
*A great option to use to condition your dog to the sound of the dremel (or clippers) is an electric toothbrush. It mimics the sound and the vibration quite well.
Smudge relaxed down on side. This is our goal:
Star combining foot handling and nail grinder:
Star nail grinding progress:
And continued progress:
More videos of Star's progress. These videos also show you what to do when you run into trouble:
Some people have found that the use of a scratch board is a fun way to get their dogs to wear down their own nails. A board is covered with sandpaper and the dog is reinforced for scraping his nails on the board. People report having success with this technique.
Here’s Diane Smith reinforcing Holly for scratching her feet on the board:
And here’s Dae Grodin working with Earl to get more scratches:
**There is a GREAT Facebook group called Nail Maintenance for Dogs that offer lots of excellent ideas, video tutorials, ideas, problem solving, and support.
These video tutorials are provided by Judith Beam, admin for the Nail Maintenance group.
*Week 3 exercises: Let's see your work on eyes/ears. Also, show us your dog's current tolerance level for work on feet and nails.
A SAMPLING OF WHAT PRIOR STUDENTS HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS COURSE ...
Great class and so useful!! Deb Jones beautifully crafted the course to use positive training skills we learned in other foundation and obedience classes and applied them to things we have to do to our dogs, from simple brushing to vet visits. The most valuable part was setting up and conditioning a grooming table. We now have “a place” and I am no longer surprising Heidi with a toothbrush or scissors while she is enjoying her favorite chair. It also saves my back. I was also surprised how easily Heidi accepted handling. With the promised chicken and cheese she stands now still and allows me to brush her – even her rear end. I used to have to hold on to her to prevent her escape. Deb went through numbers of canine care situations and we could pick what we wanted to work on. For us that was brushing, cutting out mats and brushing teeth. Our success in these was more than sufficient for the course. The instructions and lessons are excellent, and I am sure we will refer to them in the future. Sandy H
I think it's a course that every handler should take with their dogs-- not just because this is a great set of life skills, but because it gives a whole new perspective on how we interact with our dogs on a daily basis. I loved it.
Every dog owner, vet, vet tech, groomer, shelter personnel should take this course! After working through it I discovered that my dogs have never been as comfortable with handling as I thought and now I have the skills to train that as you'd train any other behavior. Great job FDSA!
As a heavily groomed breed, my dog has had a lot of experience with grooming procedures since he was a pup. And he tolerates them. But through this course he has relaxed and I no longer feel as if he's just waiting for the moment when he can escape. We have more work to do, but I know it's going to make grooming and vet experiences so much easier for him to deal with in the future. Great class. Mary Ann
My Fenzi course was everything I hoped for and more. The instructors really cared about me, my learning, my dog, his well-being; and they were kind and funny too. Annie R.
This course was very timely for us. My vet (of more than 30 years!) retired in April, so I used the "audition" visits to possible new vets to use Deb's techniques to condition the boy to being comfortable in a generic "vet's office". You never know where you'll end up.
Even though I have not done gold I have noticed Fenzi trainers never try to teach their students by asking them questions, pop quiz or bullying style. Always lifting up the feelings and confidence of the human. I appreciate that more than you know. Once again Fenzi trainers shine above!!! Tracy R.
This class was great! I now have many new "tools" for helping my dogs be comfortable with body handling. Very helpful!
I am so glad this course was offered. It gave me a lot of confidence. Since Heidi is reactive, I can't really take her to a groomer. I don't want a set back and haven't found someone I can trust to work with her. Therefore, she was getting shaggy with very long nails. I added to the things I can do myself. (And she is getting less reactive and easier to handle).