Desensitization to Touch

May 27, 2021

In training I often come across dogs that are afraid of touch on various parts of their body.  My foster fail Rebel took weeks for me to be able to touch him with pressure.  Not hitting, but when you rub your dog all over and get them excited and hug and squeeze, I couldn’t do that.  So I lightly petted him all over his body for at least 6 weeks.  I would often sit beside him and pet him all over giving him a lot of calm praise and every once in a while give him a treat so he starts to associate good with touch.  Keep in mind that if your dog is nervous/scared of anything to associate good/treats with it so over time whatever they are nervous/scared of goes away because they then see it as good and they get a treat. 

I quickly learned Rebel did not like his front paws being touched, which I am still working through.  With his front paws I constantly give treats while lightly stroking his paws.  I do this for maybe 30 seconds at a time, 6 - 8 times a day. In doing this I'm able to hold his paws up while he's standing.  I've included a video of me petting his paws so you can see how simple I start.  Now he doesn't care but weeks ago he would get up almost instantly so I would stop touching his paws. 

Desensitization to touch is very important as your dog will always go to the vet and you want your vet to be able to do their job.

Those of you with puppies need to start this process right away on a daily basis. Imagine your puppy is at the vet and how the vet will need to check in their ears, lift their lips to check their teeth, hold up their tail, squeeze their belly, etc.  Do all of this, calmly, while giving treats as long as your puppy is calm.  I typically have my puppy lay down.  So I literally hold one paw, praise and treat.  I hold the other paw, praise and treat.  I then look in one ear, praise and treat.  Then the other ear, praise and treat, etc.  Again, I would do this at least twice a day. Be quick when starting so your puppy doesn't get annoyed or distracted and want to walk or run away.  If you need to break the sessions down to only paws, then go back to check the ears in an hour, that works too.  Eventually, you'll want your puppy to be able to sit through an entire "exam" so your vet is thoroughly impressed. :)

Included is a video of me clipping my puppies nails after a couple weeks of desensitizing her to touch.

Happy training!

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