Have you missed me? I've been decidedly quiet in my blog in the last few months. But I haven't been idle. I've been spending some time training my own dog, Zuri. One of my passions is teaching dogs to cope with routine handling and vet examinations. Things like having ears checked, eyes cleaned, blood taken, injections given, nails clipped, body parts handled and a host of other practical tasks. I espouse the value of such training and try to enthuse others about the benefits of teaching a dog to enjoy these intrusions which will, inevitably, be a part of every dog's life. I like to go one step further and teach the dog to be an active and willing participant in these procedures, without restraint if possible.
The benefits are numerous. It reduces stress in an anxious dog. It reduces stress in the care-giver. It reduces the probability of aggression resulting from fear due to restraint or unknown procedures. When a dog has been conditioned in a positive way to handling, there is less to fear and therefore less need to aggress. A dog who feels safe is a safer dog.
On Mother's Day I spent some time with Zuri and a colleague, working on helping Zuri cope with having blood drawn, her temperature taken in two different positions, her heart and lungs checked (auscultation) and her ears checked with an otoscope.
Zuri has recently spent a lot of time at the vet and she is anxious when strangers try to touch her. All the training we have done has helped reduce her fear incredibly. I did need to restrain her for a catheter insertion but even that went smoothly due to the prior training we had done together; teaching her to stay still while I hugged her gently. Such a difference to the dog who once panicked and needed three people to hold her down.
In the video below I am introducing a stranger to make some of the techniques closer to what she will encounter at the vet. It won't always be me doing the procedures. I also take her temperature in two different positions because I noted at the vet that they took observations while she was recovering from sedation and it startled her. We hadn't yet practised while she was lying down, so I added this position to my training plan. Notice how she is wagging her tail during the training. This is what I love to see; a sense of expectation and enjoyment at playing a training game. To her it's just another way to gain reinforcement.
I've used a quote from Chirag Patel, an amazing behaviour consultant in the UK, as the title for this blog. He sees great value in teaching animals to be prepared for the everyday activities needed in order to care for them. I couldn't agree more.
VIDEO Here is the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZc0SD96IEM