Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

GROUP PROJECT #1 – DRESS UP!

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THE PROJECT

Teaching your dog to accept various items on their body. Specifically, for this project, a scarf, socks on their front paws, and a tee shirt or coat.

Thank you, to my friend and fellow trainer Gwen Weisgarber, of Paws to Train in Dover, NH, for inspiring this project and for sharing her many excellent tips.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

Socialization. Socialization is the acceptance of novelty. It is often presented as something that must happen outside the home, and dogs should be socialized there, but you can do a lot at home, too. 

Care and Safety. Here is a picture of Eli, one of Gwen’s dogs, who injured his paw. Because he is so used to Dress Up, he did not need a head cone, he did not try to remove the bandage. Now, your mileage may vary but through the years, my dogs have been spared cones and sedation, too, because they calmly accept all sorts of things.

Eli relaxing with his foot bandaged. No need to a head cone, Eli is calm and accepting.

Teaching Tact. Daisy was a bit skeptical about the scarf around her head at first. So, I backed-up and slowed down. I let her give it a good sniff, then rubbed her down with it while praising happily. When she was relaxed, I draped it over the base of her neck at the shoulder, then slid it up into place. Done that way, she didn’t mind a bit.

Fun! We are short fun right now. Doing this can make you laugh and your dog wag.

TRAINING TIPS

CAVEAT: Your safety is your task. Respect your dog’s limits. If you’re unsure – stop and get hands-on help.

Here are tips from Gwen (and thoughts from me in italics).

  1. Only feed when the items are going on, not when you take them off again* Yes! Always reward the behavior you are building, treat/praise as items go on then go quiet as they come off.

2. Turn socks inside out over your hand and then gently gripping the dog’s foot as you roll the sock up – that way you aren’t catching dewclaws and making it uncomfortable for the dog. 

3. Lots of rewards when you are putting the items on- that way they don’t even think about mouthing.  *Exactly. Items on=good things. Go slow, be polite, and make this fun for your dog.

4. Redirect immediately for any pawing of items or attempting to remove items. *Redirect=give them something else to do, reward all compliance well then remove the items calmly but promptly. Quit while you are ahead.

5) I do this for quick bursts initially, that way I end with lots of success.  * Well said. Short, happy sessions lead to happy results.

WHAT’S A PASSING GRADE?
Your dog calmly accepts these items without struggling or trying to instantly remove them. (Don’t have a tee-shirt or coat your dog’s size? How about a scarf wrapped around their chest. Creativity welcome – surprise me!)

Post a picture over on Facebook to join the fun! https://www.facebook.com/MySmartPuppyPage

NOTE: If this threatens to be more steer wrestling than dog training – STOP. Back up. Do smaller pieces. Ask here for ideas.

This game is based on My Smart Puppy’s Calm = Release exercises on pages 122-124.

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