Stress-Free Husbandry: First steps for more cooperative nail care, grooming, and more

This is an excerpt from the book Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-Free Husbandry by FDSA Instructor Deb Jones, PhD. Available now!

Step One for Cooperative Care: Place Conditioning 

It is important to have a dedicated place in your home where you will practice the majority of your husbandry work. You want somewhere that your dog can easily recognize as a husbandry training location and that you don't use for any other purpose. This enables your dog to make decisions about whether or not he wants to participate, as well as understand what he can expect from you.

A grooming table is an ideal place. It is clearly recognizable to your dog as a training place and the height will keep you from ending up with a backache from bending over. If you don't have a grooming table, any elevated surface, such as an ottoman, can work. Choose a surface that is solid, sturdy, stable, large enough for your dog to easily lie down, and that has a non-slip surface. Your dog will be spending a lot of training time there so it should be as comfortable as possible. The most important aspect of your training place is that you set it up so your dog has a way to get on and off by himself. This is what gives him the ability to leave if he's uncomfortable. You can set up your table next to a chair or other piece of furniture to make it possible for your dog to jump up and down safely.

Occasionally, using an elevated surface simply doesn't make sense. For example, maybe you have a giant breed dog. In this case, it's a good idea to set aside a location with a specific floor covering to delineate the space. A foam yoga mat or some children's play tiles would make a good floor covering for your place. Again, make sure the area is large enough for your dog to lie down comfortably.

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