Handle your dog

By Scott Hunt

The Dog Grumber

 

THERE are lots of reasons to handle your dog.

Dogs are physical creatures— most animals are — because they are non-verbal and must communicate with body language, sound and smell.

Dogs are experts in body language – their eyes and minds are set up for it.

Part of the magic of the dog/human relationship is our ability to understand each other this way. In fact dogs have evolved to be good at it.

So here is some stuff I do.

Unless a strange dog is growling, baring its teeth, laying its ears back or has its hackles up, I offer it the back of my hand to smell.

I use the back of my hand like an uncertain electrician: the hand will close and pull away reflexively if I have misjudged my canine.

This allows the dog to smell my sweat right on my skin. The dog now has me pegged for life and will remember me.

It will also know what I have been handling and probably what sort of emotional state I’m in.

If the tail is wagging, I squat and let the dog come over and touch noses.

If a dog comes and sits on my foot or leans on me — if it lays close to where I’m sitting or sits and looks up at me – I scratch it behind and between the ears and down the back of its neck.

The back of the neck is a dog’s natural control point. This is where Mum grabs a pup. When dogs play fight, they play to grip each other here. If I scratch here we both generate oxytocin and feel immediately better.

This is also a place where a dog may have trouble scratching itself. The spot at the top of the tail, above the hips, is another goodie. Anywhere along the spine, a scratch will be appreciated.

Dogs love this. They cannot do it for themselves or each other. Only a trusted human can give a dog this pleasure.

You can go further. I like to sick my thumb and forefinger under a dog’s lips and massage its gums.

You should regularly check for grass seeds in the coat and ears. Look for matted hair and check for nails that need trimming.

It is your responsibility to clear that black gunk out of the corners of your dog’s eyes too. It’s mostly tears and dust, but can grow into rocks that stick to facial hair and irritate.

Like claws, the longer you leave it the worse it gets.

If I need to put a dog — especially a large one — in a car, I grip the collar behind the head with one hand and lift with my other arm under its waist from the opposite side

If your pup needs to learn that it has upset you, pick it up as its mum did — by the scruff of the neck. Look it in the eye and grumble.

If any animal is between me and where I am going and is not an obvious physical threat, I expect it to get out of my way or be moved.

Certainly I never walk around a dog and the ones that know me get out of my way.

By the same token I expect to pass through doors and gates first unless I have told the dog to go ahead of me.

These are just animal protocols, possibly crass in human company, but essential to maintain order in non-verbal society.

I use them out of respect for the special creature I am dealing with.

To do otherwise would be bad manners, like eating with my fingers or crawling under the dinner table and passing wind.

But that’s for another day. For now, have a great 2018, with lots of oxytocin.