There’ll often come a point in your dog’s life when you need him to stay still while something is ‘done’ to him; this could be vaccinations, ear, and eye care, or even grooming. Teaching your pup, a chin rest can be a great way to get him to learn to stay in one position while procedures are underway.
There are many ways to train this, the version here is inspired by Pat Koven and teaches the dog to target on cue.
Have high value soft treats, and make sure you identify a comfortable position and height at which your dog can rest their chin (perhaps placing a rolled- up towel on a chair or similar).
Chin rest onto palm of hand.
- Hold an open hand palm up just slightly below your dog’s nose. With your other hand hold a treat at the edge of your upturned hand, furthest from your dog’s nose. To encourage your dog to lean forward onto your palm you may have to hold the treat a little further away.
- Hold your upturned palm steady and as your dog reaches to get the treat slightly lower the treat so your dog puts his muzzle onto your palm to get nearer to the food. When you feel his chin on your palm say ‘yes’ and gently give him the treat.
- Repeat a number of times and start to add a cue like ‘chin’ as your dog rests his muzzle in your palm.
- After a number of repetitions now open your palm at chin level, give the cue ‘chin’ and see if your dog performs the muzzle rest. If he does start toggling back and forth with each go, first counting to 1 and rewarding, next to 3, then to 2. Each time give a treat if your dog keeps his muzzle in place.
Move the behaviour onto a towel or other object.
- In the real world you’ll need both hands to deliver medications or similar. So, you want the dog to station his muzzle onto something and hold still.
- Try some soft rolled or folded material to pad the edge of a table or chair. For very small dogs you’ll need a low box. Ensure it is a nice height that is comfortable for your dog, without him struggling or straining to rest his muzzle.
- Put your upturned palm onto the padding.
- Repeat the process of giving the cue and getting your dog to rest his muzzle on your palm. Toggle durations and reward each time.
- Now place your upturned palm behind the rolled material, at the edge furthest from your dog’s nose. Repeat your cue- the idea is that the dog stretches his muzzle forward across the rolled padding to reach your palm. As his muzzle skims or rests on the material say ‘yes’ and reward.
- Repeat this adding duration slowly, toggling between longer and shorter. You may need to raise or lower the height of the rolled material to make it more accessible. It will help to at first to offer a treat below the level of the rolled material, to encourage the dog to lower his muzzle onto the material.
The final stages involve building duration of the chin rest and then slowly adding in ear and eye inspections and appropriate implements. Use of reward is crucial each time. Be patient.
Leonie St Clair|www.londondogstraining.co.uk