Routine husbandry and veterinary care is a lifelong reality for all dogs; tolerated by some, hated by others, loved by a very select few. We acknowledge we need to teach dogs how to walk on a leash, come when called, politely survive in society, but forget nail trimming and physical examinations fall into that same category of necessary life skills. Neglecting to develop the necessary communication to work through these situations is selling your relationship short.
So let’s talk about how we can make it better for the masses, for our dogs, our medical professionals, and ourselves. How you can make getting a shot or a bandage change a learned, predictable, and cooperative behavior.
It starts at home.
Long before I asked Onni to consent and participate in his chiropractic appointment, I taught him a system of behaviors that would lend themselves to a medical situation. A chin rest is a great way to start (see video below on how to teach this to your dog) because it encourages stillness and a sustained stand position. As soon as I had this behavior on a physical prompt (I present a flattened hand, he places his chin on it) I started asking him to ignore other distractions while performing it. For example, I would ask for the chin, then with my opposite hand touch him on the back. Once he could hold the target throughout my “exam” I then had other people practice touching him while he worked for me. I even had my chiropractor help me while we were present for other visits.
Once this behavior is fluid wrapping it into consent is a simple project. Chin rest = exam, break the chin rest, the exam immediately pauses, walk away or opt out (getting off exam table) means we are done. Resume chin rest = resume exam. Once you apply these rules to the behavior the consequences of their behavior are understood very quickly.
Teach them to love props!
Doggles are not just a fashion accessory, they are a necessity in some cases to protect your dog’s eyes. Take time to get your dog familiar with these items and teach them how to voluntarily put them on. (Same goes for muzzles.) Don’t wait to be at an exam to strap them to their face, take time at home preparing for one day having to tolerate such items.
Getting medical professionals on board!
Talk to your vet! Prep them for your next visit, call/email them beforehand and remind them of what you will be asking them to do. Make sure it is clear and that they are happy to participate. If not, find a new professional. In my experience, the medical teams I have worked with have been happy to help, and love the idea! After all, the more prepared my dog is the more unlikely it is that they will get bitten! This is just the tip of the iceberg people, this is just a blog, after all, to talk more about cooperative care email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
HUGE shout out to Dr. Jill Smith of Easthampton Chiropractic Center in Easthampton, Ma for her participation in Onni's care and the making of this video!