Training for Grooming
Golden Retrievers will, at a minimum, need to be brushed, bathed, and cleaned when they get muddy. By acclimating your Golden to all this handling, you can help this be a pleasant experience instead of one that requires the whole family to pin down the dog. It is best to avoid using force to groom any dog, as harsh treatment will never make your Golden Retriever a big fan of being brushed and cared for. You may get the job done this time, but you will soon discover that the process becomes more and more difficult as time goes on and your Golden gets bigger and better at evading you.
There will be many times when your Golden Retriever must be held still, not just for grooming issues but for veterinary checks and quick home checks to ensure that he is healthy and stays that way. Many people never even give it a second thought, but throughout your dog's life, he will need to be held or restrained for various procedures and routine checks.
The most common restraint technique used by most veterinary staff involves hugging the dog to your chest. The right arm goes over the dog's back, and the other goes across his chest with the left hand pressing his neck into your shoulder. This hold not only prevents the dog from escaping, it also prevents him from biting should the procedure be painful or if he is uncomfortable from an injury.
Training for grooming is a very practical way to help your Golden Retriever become a welcomed member of your family wherever he goes. If you are planning on sending your dog to the groomer for his bathing and brushing, all the more reason to train him to tolerate it and maybe even like it.
Teaching Your Dog to Tolerate Restraint
Teaching your Golden to accept this restraint involves breaking it down into small pieces. Unlike clicker training (which is operant conditioning, meaning the dog must do something to earn his click and treat), this shaping exercise involves developing an association between the restraint step and the treat. This is commonly called temperament training, and its main goal is to develop an association between being held and good things versus the dog learning to do a specific behavior. The shaping steps are as follows:
Find a helper who can feed the dog delicious treats as you practice the steps of this hold.
Call your dog to you, and feed him a delicious tidbit for coming.
Have several treats in your hand, and, as you feed him with your left hand, run your right hand over his back lightly from neck to rump.
Repeat this several times while he is nibbling at the treats, until he ignores your right hand movement.
Have your helper feed him tidbits as you move your hand down his right side, so that your bicep is touching his side.
Gradually increase the pressure until the weight of your arm is resting on his back.
Gently pat him down his side as your helper feeds him treats and talks to him.
With your left hand, gently stroke his chest until he accepts this without moving away.
Gradually work your left hand so that you are patting him from throat to chest.
Slowly work your left hand so that you are touching his right shoulder, and pat slowly.
Work your way up to the side of his neck, and stroke him gently.
Increase the pressure of your touch until you eventually have him hugged in tight to your body.
Teaching Stand The “Stand”
command involves your dog standing on all four legs without moving his feet or cranking his head around to see what you are doing. This is probably one of the most useful behaviors you can teach your Golden Retriever for grooming. It works well for brushing, nail trims, ear cleaning, bathing, paw wiping on muddy days, and overall body checks for lumps and bumps.
The shaping steps for teaching your dog to stand are as follows:
Use a treat to lure your dog out of a sit; click and treat.
Repeat this until the dog will easily follow your hand to move into a standing position.
Repeat this without a food lure in your hand, then click and treat for following your hand into a standing position.
Use your empty fist to get your dog to stand then count to two before you click and treat.
Slowly build up the time so that your dog is standing for longer and longer periods of time.
Fade your fist as the cue by saying “Stay” and quickly taking your fist away. Click and treat if your dog holds his position.
Practice taking your fist away for longer periods of time, click and treat your dog for holding the stay.
Once your dog is standing and staying for twenty seconds or more, add distractions.
Practice running your hand down your dog's back while he stays, and click and treat him for holding the stay.
Replace your hand with a brush, and click and treat for staying.
Practice turning his ears inside out.
Practice lifting each foot while he holds the stay.
If at any point your dog objects to being handled, teach that piece first before adding it to the stand. Trying to combine a whole new behavior with a just-learned behavior will only make the dog feel frightened and panicky to get away. It pays to go slow and be sure you have taught all the pieces before combining them into one exercise.