The Trainer’s Corner is a column with advice for pet owners and handlers. Pet to the Vet Ambulance Service is pleased to welcome Yvette Van Veen of Awesome Dogs as the author of The Trainer’s Corner. Yvette is an animal behaviour consultant, pet writer, and columnist for The Toronto Star.
Preparing your pets so they are better able to cope during an emergency is a wise idea. Sick and injured animals can become stressed, anxious and even aggressive.
This applies to all species of animals. Cats, rabbits and other small companion animals are highly trainable. These animals don’t do obedience not because they can’t – rather owners rarely try. All species of animals can and do learn well if exposed to kind and gentle methods.
Begin by getting some tiny, species appropriate treats. Several times a week, spend a few minutes working on some of the following exercises:
Crate Train: All pets should be crate trained. In the event of an emergency, your pet might require transport in a kennel. While at the veterinary clinic, they will stay in a small confined area. Should your pet require crate rest, as does happen when a broken bone needs to set, you’ll be glad your animal feels safe and secure. Training during an emergency is futile and dangerous. Train your pet to like a crate whether you plan to use it in daily life or not.
Handle Nose to Toes: When ill, pets are often examined and manipulated in uncomfortable ways. First aid providers may need to check the pet’s gums and airway. Animals may need restraint for blood draws or a rectal temperature. These are not pleasant things. Ensure your animal accepts these invasive procedures by pairing handling with food. Check your pet’s teeth, and then give a treat. Lift their tail and give a treat. Slowly, gently create trust. Sick animals may still be frightened, But at least they will be familiar with all the poking and prodding.
Wraps and Bandages: Pets with cuts may require immediate bandaging. That is no easy task if they are struggling. Get a few treats and a short piece of gauze. Loosely wrap their leg while feeding treats. Then remove the bandage. Keep practicing until your animal holds still and becomes familiar with the process. You will be glad you did this if ever you need to quickly stop an injury from bleeding.
Pills and Drops: Medications come in various forms from pills to eye and ear drops. Pleasantly surprise your pet with a pretend pill at least once a month. Take a treat, and gently place it on your pet’s tongue. Do NOT push it down their throat. You can also teach your pet to hold still while you gently touch around their face, eyes and ears. If repeated, and if pets earn tasty food treats, they will look forward to the experience. That makes looking after a sick dog a far less stressful experience.
Pick Them Up: While you might not be carrying a Labrador in your handbag, all pets should tolerate being carried. In an emergency, you may need to lift your pet into a vehicle, or even carry them for long distances if in a remote location. Pick young animals up frequently and pair it with pleasant things such as food.
Socialize: Puppy classes are a great way for your puppy to learn manners and to learn to trust other people. Cats also benefit from a wide range of experiences that can include car rides or visiting guests. Strangers will likely be caring for your pet when they are in a clinic. So make sure that your pet feels safe around strangers.
These exercises are a preventative measure for friendly pets. Work slowly, kindly and gently. At no time should your pet feel threatened to the point that it starts to struggle. If your pet is having a difficult time, ease up. Make the exercise a little simpler in order to build trust.
For older animals or ones with fear and anxiety problems, get help from a professional. Pets can learn to overcome their fears, but exercises that are more precise are often required.
Yvette Van Veen
Animal Behaviour Consultant ~ Pet Writer ~ Columnist The Toronto Star