Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Art of the Scruff

Working terriers are small dogs
and they are commonly pulled from den holes by their tails, and lifted up by the scruff of their neck.

Whenever I see or hear anyone expresses shock at this, they have told me two things: they do not know much about small dogs, and they are not watching the dog that is right in front of their eyes.

This last point is important, as a terrier properly lifted by the thick skin on the back of his or her neck does not yowl or struggle, nor are they prone to wiggle away and jump off.

A scruffed terrier simply relaxes as their small canine bodies have been programmed to do for more than ten thousand years.

This phenomenon even has a name -- it's called clipnosis -- and there have been scientific papers written about its effectiveness on dogs, cats, and other animals.

Clipnosis, or "pinch-induced behavioral inhibition" responses, have been seen in a wide range of animals, including mice, rats, rabbits, dogs, and guinea pigs.

If you go to Google Scholar and search for "dorsal immobility" or "transport immobility," you will find a few hundred studies going back several decades.

In the modern pet world, the phenomenon is most commonly done with cats, with 2-inch binder clips creating the "pinch-induced behavioral inhibition" (see the video, below). Amazon even sells a Clipnosis Gentle Calming Cat Clip which looks suspiciously like a woman's hair clip.

Are there limits as to weight when it comes to scruffing?

Sure. I would not do it for a dog that weighed more than 25 pounds or so, but working terriers are about half that weight, and scruffing has been a traditional way of pulling terriers and fox out of holes in order to maintain maximum control and minimize struggle or fuss for hundreds of years.

To be clear -- the dog is not scruffed for a long period of time -- less than 5 seconds is typical, as seen in the video at top which is from a TV newscast detailing the recent flooding in Baton Rouge.

Whenever someone hyperventilates about it being "disrespectful" to scruff a fox, cat, or small dog I know two things: 1) they still think dogs and cats are about how they feel and what they think, and; 2) they are not being very observant.

Here's a clue:  Dogs have a useful code inside them, and using that code to help either dog or man is never wrong.


seeker said...

I got involved in a discussion on facebook about dog fights. The real ones, not the human created ones. My response was to a. grab small dogs by their tails or the back of their necks and b. large dogs by the back legs. If I couldn't do that, I would take my walking stick to the agressive dogs. Of course, I was immediately criticized for my cruelty. They not only labeled me as heartless but as a barbarian Texan. I don't know what they call a dog fight, but with Terriers (as you know) they often result in blood, stitches and sometimes death so yeah, I guess I get a little down and dirty to stop one.
I remember you had a great article on how to stop dog fights. I have used your advice successfully with my dogs. I pulled my dogs out of holes, our from under sheds and off of prey by their tails. Never injured a one.
I saw the video of the man rescuing his 12 Dachshunds. None of them cried, wiggled or complained. Their boss was saving their lives. Good for him.

Barbarian Texan Debi and the Jack Rats.
So thanks for this explanation and the articles. I do feel sorry for the people who have no clue what to do about a real dog fight. They will experience high vet bills if lucky because a water hose doesn't always do it.

Rick said...

I thought everybody knew that.