"Stand Still" For Grooming: Training To Get Started

fearful dogs Mar 27, 2023

Teaching our fearful pups to happily participate in grooming can seem like a tall order. No wonder, since many of them are not comfortable being touched at all when we first bring them home.  Like anything else we want to teach our dogs, however, it's usually doable by breaking the bigger task down into tiny steps.

There are several behaviors you can use to teach your dog to stand still for grooming or vet care. In this post, I talk about how to start training your dog to rest their chin on an object like the sofa or some other surface. Eventually, this behavior can be used in grooming. But for now, just focus on these simple first steps. 

Here are 3 approaches to get started with this "chin rest" behavior. I hope one of them will be a good fit for your dog!


Chin Rest Tactic #1: "Capture It" When It Happens

If your dog already sometimes walks up to you and rests their chin on your chair of the sofa (say, while you're eating a snack), you've already got the behavior you're looking for! Now you just have to reinforce it so it happens more frequently, and then put it on cue. 

My dog Juno does this when there might be food available. As you can see in the video, I have treats with me, and I'm ready to give Juno a treat when she approaches and rests her chin on the bed. This is the easiest way to get this behavior going for use in grooming, if you're lucky enough to have a dog who is already offering this behavior. 


Chin Rest Tactic #2: Lure With A Treat

Chin rest is an easy behavior to lure with a treat. Just show your dog the treat, and slowly draw it back over the surface you want your dog to rest their chin on. Once their chin is on the sofa, chair, etc., give them the treat!

The surface you lure your dog's head over should be at about their chin level when they're standing. Check out the video below for examples of surfaces that are the right height, versus too high or low. 


Chin Rest Tactic #3: Chin Scritch Transfer

This teaching tactic is a good one if your dog already will put their chin into your hand for chin scritches. In the video you can see that Pancake is one of those dogs. If I put my hand out at about his chin level, palm up, he often will run over and present his chin for scratches.  To turn this into a chin rest on a surface, first I hold out my hand on the cushion that I want him to rest his chin on. When he comes over and puts his chin on my hand, I remove my hand and give him a treat on the cushion. 

After several repetitions of this, I can start moving my hand back over the cushion so he can't quite get his chin onto it- instead his chin will be on the cushion. And then I can fade out that hand completely, and instead just pat the cushion as a cue.  You'll just see the first step in the video. 


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