Muzzle–free and restraint–free grooming are gaining momentum in our industry and are an important sign of the growth of communication between groomer and pet.
There are so many tools at our disposal, it can be hard to pinpoint where to start. Muzzles, hammocks, loops, sacks and catchpoles have all been used with great success, but are sometimes used at the cost of real communication with the animal you are working with. For those of you that are searching for a more gentle and communicative approach, here are some tips to get you started.
Wrapping is a technique I learned from studying TTouch by Linda Tellington–Jones.1 Among the many touch techniques, wrapping with a towel or blanket is probably the one I use the most. My favorite tool is a beach towel because they are larger and a little thinner than regular towels.
This wrapping technique is like a hug and helps to calm a nervous dog or humanely subdue a wiggly one. A nail trim can be facilitated on a small dog with anxiety issues with this method and a firm, calm assistant. This wrap can be executed as follows:
Fig 1) Fold a large towel long ways twice.
Fig 2) Drape the middle of the towel on the back of the neck.
Fig 3) Wrap the towel in a figure 8 around the body.
Next is the ventral carry position with wrapping which allows you to safely lift or carry a dog:
Fig 4) One arm goes through the front legs.
Fig 5) The other arm goes through the back legs.
Fig 6) This then exposes the feet for the nails, pads and trimming.
Using the towel as a shield can be useful for kennel–defensive dogs, or picking them up from the floor, out of the tub or off your table:
Fig 7) Place a sturdy slip lead around the grooming loop and over the dog’s head.
Fig 8) Fold your beach towel in half short ways.
Fig 9) While keeping the slip lead taut, drape the towel completely over the dog with a corner over the head.
Fig 10) You can then safely scoop the dog up with the towel and slip lead to transport it to a different location.
Working with a dog you are hoping not to muzzle can also be done by using your position in relation to the dog:
Fig 11) Tighten the grooming loop so it is straight but not putting pressure on the neck. Then, pull the dog to the back of the table and work from behind.
These are some of the tools and techniques I use to gently train fearful and unwilling dogs. Everything is done in a slow and methodical manner and I do not push the pet past its limits. ✂️
1. Tellington–Jones, Linda. Getting in TTouch with Your Dog: A Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior, health, and Performance. 2nd ed., Trafalgar Square Books, 2012.