Want your dog to be able to deal with injuries without biting, squirming, barking or running away? See what our Seattle Puppy Classes Can Teach You!
Ever try to treat a medical issue on a very wiggly and unhappy dog? Not fun for anyone involved. Here are some tips to help make it an easier and less painful process.
Counterconditioning your Puppy
When our dogs are in pain or discomfort, our love and concern for their well-being makes us act quickly to try to help alleviate their suffering.
Recently Mary noticed that Liame’s neck was red, itch and his hair was falling out. We sprung into action and broke out the scissors, clippers, and skin-soothing lotion. But Liame wasn’t particularly happy about having his sore skin touched and was wiggling around like a 3 month old puppy. Yes, thats right students, even your State Certified Professional Dog Trainer makes mistakes sometimes.
What’s the best way to calm an upset dog and redirect his energies? The answers are Desensitization and Counterconditioning, big scientific words that means we try to re-teach an animal to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that he once feared or disliked.
40% of your dogs brain is devoted strictly to his nose so allowing a dog to smell something can result in an amazingly pleasant feeling. In our Seattle puppy classes, we use food to achieve this pleasant feeling. Just like you and me dogs can only have ONE thought at a time. If they’re happily engaged in something pleasant (food), then there’s no room for those unpleasant thoughts (scissors are scary).
Lesson Learned From Puppy Classes
So our idea for Liame was for Mary to tend to the skin and fur while I treated with small pieces of food. It worked; Liame forgot all about what was happening, but was so excited about the food that he wouldn’t sit still. The job got done but we realized a better way would have been something we usually suggest to our puppy training class students:
- Take a Kong, filled it with something yummy
- Have helper person hold in in front of your dogs head kind of like a baby bottle.
- Let dog lick while another person does something mildly unpleasant to the dog.
The result of this type of set up is that you get a calm puppy who is oblivious to what is going on around him (be that bathing, clipping nails, brushing their coat, or in our case, using clippers to shave hair off your dogs neck.)
Desensitization Dog Training Techniques Learned in Puppy Class
This experience could have been so much worse if Mary hadn’t spent a lot of time throughout Liame’s life desensitizing him to having every part of his body touched and handled. Desensitizing simply means to make less sensitive. Part of our puppy training class involves teaching dog owners the importance of having their dog handled, a little bit every day, as part of their daily routine, and of course by using food (counterconditioning) to make it a pleasant experience. At our Seattle dog training studio, we teach our students the following method:
- Put a treat in front of the nose
- Touch/handle the body part
- Let your dog eat the treat
- Let go of body part
By doing this, you’re teaching your dog that it’s not a big deal when you loom over them, or open up their mouth, or pull their tail. They’ll begin to think, “I get food when people stick their fingers in my ear? I LOVE when people stick their finger in my ear!” That way, when an emergency arises, it will be much easier to tend to your dog because they will already be so used to having their body handled. It will just be normal to them.
So, while Liame would have preferred to NOT have his fur cut and lotion applied, he was obviously not SCARED because he’d been desensitized from puppyhood and was trained often to accept and enjoy being touched and handled.
If you would like to have your puppy enjoy going to the vet, love having their teeth brushed, sit calmly in your lap and love being petted, check out our Award Winning, 5 Star Google Rated Seattle Puppy Classes.