Ep. 6: Prepare Your Dog: Medical Procedures

Jul 16, 2019

When it comes to our dogs, it is our job to help them be prepared for what they may experience throughout their lives. This is especially important when it comes to sudden medical procedures! We don't want our dogs stressing needlessly when they need to be concentrating on healing.


Dianna L. Santos


Welcome to the It is Time to Train Your Dog Podcast. In this podcast we talk about all things dog training that can include dog training tips, a behind the scenes look of what your instructor may be going through and much more. In this episode, I wanted to talk about how we can really make certain that we're training our dogs to be comfortable with things that are going to be happening throughout their lives. Before we start diving into the podcast episode itself, lemme just do a very quick introduction of myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I'm the Owner and Lead Instructor for Family Dog University, Dog Sport University and Scent Work University. These are online dog training platforms. They're designed to provide high quality dog training instruction to as many people as possible, and we're very fortunate to have a client base as quite literally worldwide. For Family Dog University in particular, we focus on providing dog training services that are designed to help your dog be the best family canine companion they could possibly be. These include online courses, seminars, and webinars, as well as our regularly updated blog and podcast episodes like what you're listening to today. So I should know a little bit more about me. Let's dive into the podcast.

So what I want to talk about today is how it is that we can design our dog training so that our dogs can be more successful in what they're going to be experiencing throughout their lives. That all sounds super complicated, but basically this is something that is so important that we do yet I don't think enough dog owners but also trainers really think about it. So let me give you an example of something that I'm actually going through myself. My dog has just had a medical procedure and he had surgery to remove some lumps in order to determine whether or not they are bad or not. We're waiting a pathology, but he should be fine. But because there were a number of sites that needed to have surgery done, the veterinarian placed him in a plastic cone for his head. So basically to try to prevent him from bothering the incisions.

And what I realized was that he's not really super comfortable inside of a cone. We haven't really had to use it up to this point because he's just so good and I'm home all the time. So I'm able to watch him pretty much 24/7 and when they were bringing him out from the back of the veterinary hospital to see me, he had a con on and he was just beside himself. Now, granted, he was also still woozy from the anesthesia, but he just could not function with that thing on. It took forever to try to get him out. It took him forever to try to get him into the car. I had to take it off in order to get him out of the car. It was a thing. So all of this just showed me that we have not properly prepared in our training to help him be okay in wearing a cone because there very well may be a time where there is another medical procedure or he could become injured or something else where having a cone, albeit not the most fun thing for a dog to go through, but it may just simply be a necessity.

There are no if, ands or buts about it. He may have to have it on for his own wellbeing and it is derelict in my duty, in being his caretaker to not allow him the opportunity to get used to it. Now, ideally, I would have done this if I had my stuff together before we actually needed it. Now, luckily for what he's going through right now, he is a saint as far as leaving his wound areas alone. Again, I'm home all the time. I removed everything from my schedule and I'm just basically watching him and if I'm doing something else, I'm still quasi watching him and so far so good. But something that's on our agenda is to have him be okay with wearing that cone, with basically having the cone be something that is good, something that he is okay with, something that he may even look forward to.

So what I wanted to talk about in this podcast was basically highlighting a number of different things that all of us as dog owners, regardless of what it is that you do with your dog, whether or not you have a dog just purely as a companion, you throw a ball, you take a walk with them, they're a part of your family and you just have fun with them. Or you're traveling the country and you're competing in all kinds of different dog sports and dogs are your life. Regardless of how it is that you're approaching this, I think all of us need to really analyze what is it that my dog may encounter throughout their life and what can I do training wise to help them be more prepared for that and to be more successful for it? So in this podcast episode in particular, I wanted to talk about some things that are more on the medical side of things just because that's fresh in my mind.

Then a lot of people just don't give a lot of credence to, they don't think about until bam. Suddenly you're in a situation, you're like, oh wow. Well now my dog needs to do this. So the first one obviously is these cones are these cones that you may need to put on your dog so that they are leaving their wound sites alone, and it's not meant to be something that's bad. I am not a big fan of seeing dogs who are just so distraught by them and they look very sad and they don't feel like they can get around and really it's kind of heartbreaking, which to be completely honest is why we haven't used it. I wanted to try to prevent him from going through all of that, but it's just not realistic. In some situations, in some situations, you have no choice. They need to be in a cone so that you can help them so that you can ensure that they're not making the situation worse by bothering their wounds. So in that respect, what I would urge everyone to do is to just contact your veterinarian and say, Hey, I'm looking to get my dog used to a cone. There is nothing wrong with them. We're doing this far in advance and take your time with us. Make it something fun. Make it something that your dog looks forward to. Don't turn it into a drill. Don't turn it into something that they're scared of and make certain that you're going bit by bit. So you may be asking, well, how do I do that?

And the best way of doing this is to have the cone completely open and just play a, if you poke your nose to the cone, you get a goodie game. If you sniff the cone, you get a goodie game and then have the cone actually in the cone formation. So basically closing it not on the dog, it's just on the floor somewhere and play the same kind of game. Dog comes up, they poke it, they sniff it, then they get a goodie. Then you can start having it where maybe you're holding the larger part of the cone and they stick their head through the smaller end. Again, go step by step with this. Don't rush it. Don't try to force your dog to do this. They should be offering to do this, and you should be doing this over a series of days and even weeks.

This is why you want to do it before your dog actually has a problem. So you have a lot of time at your disposal and you don't have to rush. Use a very high value treat when you're doing this, and what I mean by that is something that your dog just goes gaga for. This could be a canned version of their food. It could be something like liverworth or meatballs, whipped cream, peanut butter, sardine, something that's really, really good. So we're letting the dog know the cone equals this really great thing that I only get when I am working on working on my cone exercise or I'm working on other things that may be a little bit more challenging. So this is just something that you can try and I would urge everyone who has a dog to do it because again, at some point in your dog's life, they're probably going to have to wear a cone, and then once they're comfortable actually wearing it where they're volunteering, having their head go into the cone, then you can start incorporating helping them get around with it on.

So having them at one end of the hallway and then having some treats in your hand, helping them go down the hallway with you to turning corners to being able to eat out of their bowl, to getting in and out of doorways, in and out of the house, in and out of the car. You can turn this into quite the exercise that again, you should be breaking up into tiny little steps, but if you were to take the time to do this, it's going to make such a big difference. When your dog does need to wear a cone, it's not that big of a deal because they have all of this background. That's what dog training is really supposed to be about. It's supposed to be, how can I prepare my dog for what they're going to see down the line, particularly because they're living in a human world. There may be things that are just completely unnatural to dogs. What we ask them to do, and the more that we can prepare them for those things, the better it is.

Another thing as far as medically speaking, how we can prepare our dogs for things is crate training. And I know there are lots of people who are completely in entirely against crate training. They think that it's mean. They think that putting a dog into a crate is just a terrible thing that you would never ever do, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. But something that you have to recognize is that there are two instances where your dog more likely than not is going to have to be in some kind of crate if they ever have to be hospitalized and if they ever have to be boarded. Another one. Number three is if you ever have to fly with your dog, they're going to have to be in a crate. So we have to understand that crate is a really important skill for our dogs, and if it's done correctly, your dog will love their crate.

Their crate will be a good thing, not a bad thing. So we actually cover some of this in our Mighty Management webinar that's offered on the Family Dog University website, but the big thing that I would just stress in this podcast episode is to ensure that when you are working on your crate training, it is never associated with something bad. It's never associated with punishing your dog or having them be berated as they're in their crate or anything like that. The crate should be a happy, safe place that your dog will actually even seek out if they want a break. Maybe you have kids and they're having some friends over and you have the crate in the back room. The dog says, you know what? I need a break from the kids. I'm going to go hang out in my crate. Maybe that's where they sleep at night.

Maybe that's where they are safely contained. If you're going to be out of the house for a couple of hours, maybe you want to go to dinner and a movie and you didn't want them to have free reign of the house where maybe there are things that you're concerned they're going to try to rip up and destroy. Having them inside of their crate with a chew like a stuffed Kong or a bone or a bully stick, that could really help. Again, the same thing that we were talking about with your cone. You want to make certain that you're doing this step-by-step. It is going to take some time, but if you put in that time and effort, it's going to make a huge difference in your dog's life. If you do have to hospitalize them, they're going to be in some kind of crate or kennel at the hospital.

That's just the reality of it. If you have to board them, let's say there's a family emergency and you need to board your dog, you need to board them immediately. You have to jump on a plane because someone passed away in another state. It sounds like a sad situation, but it's not unrealistic. These things happen. You need your dog to be okay being inside of a crate. So again, take the time when those things aren't happening to help your dog love their crate and to use it in as many different contexts as possible. So as an example, maybe you'd like to meet up with friends so that you can do a walk with your dogs, have the crate with you so that you can set it up at the friend's house so you can have the dog crate maybe before and after the walk. You can have it after the walk where maybe you're just meeting up with your friend and you're just chit chatting.

The dog is in the crate. They have a chew and everything is great. Just make it part of their routine so that when they do have to go into a crate, either at the vet hospital when they're boarded, maybe if they have to go on an airplane or if someone else is watching them that it's okay that it's not such a horrific, horrible, oh my goodness, I'm going inside this tiny thing. What's happening to me? We want to prepare our dogs for these things. The other thing that we want to get our dogs used to is actually getting up onto something in order to be weighed. Again, this is all about thinking in the medical terms, but basically getting your dog onto the weighing table. A lot of veterinary hospitals now have tables that are actually pretty much on the floor. They are very close to it and they're not raised, which is great.

It's a wonderful way to get your dog's weight, but you want to have your dog comfortable getting on it and then either doing a sit or a stand just waiting there for a little bit, and you can actually work on this at home. You can take anything from a piece of cardboard to a piece, a lid for a plastic tote, anything that's just slightly raised off the floor and just get your dog used to getting on it either with all four feet or having them sit and just having them wait there for a little bit. Make a fun game of it. Make it something that your dog really enjoys so that you're not pulling them onto the weight in the doctor's office and you're trying everything you can to keep them staying there and the weight is going all over the place. Instead of all of that, you can just be like, oh, let's go do our weight, and then the dog just pops up there.

They either do a sit or they stay on all four feet and they're perfectly fine. Again, just try to think about anything and everything that your dog is going to be experiencing throughout their life and what it is that you can do to help better prepare them. That's basically what I wanted to get people thinking about in this podcast episode. We're actually going to turn this into a series where we're going to be talking about how we can incorporate some training ideas for things that your dog may be experiencing out in the world that may just not be correlated to your vet, but maybe just things that they're going to see throughout their life and how you can better prepare your dog for those things. The last thing I just wanted to talk about really briefly is when you are thinking of helping your dog be better prepared for things such as medical procedures, one of the biggest things that you can do is to actually go to the vet's office with your dog when they don't have to go to the vet, and what I mean by this is visiting your vet's office just for your dog to say hi to a couple of the office staff, maybe even the vet if they're available, give the dog lots of goodies, maybe play with a toy and then leave.

Don't just always make the vet office a bad place. Don't always just make it the place that my dog goes to have injections done. Maybe their anal s sex expressed, having their nails done, all this stressful stuff. You don't want the vet's office to be this big stressful place. You want it to be a place that your dog actually enjoys as much as they can and partner with your veterinarian and also all of their office staff and their veterinary techs. Talk to them. Let them know what your plan is. Let them know that you want to see is there a time during the day where it's a little bit quieter that you can just come in for five minutes at the most. They can come in, they can give some treats to your dogs. You can say how great they are. Maybe they can go into an empty exam room, they can close the door, give them some more treats, and then you leave super simple, super quick, and they could appreciate that as staff because then your dog is going to be more accepting of them when they do have to come in either for just a routine physical or something were to actually happen that way.

Your dog isn't so panicked when they do get there because we forget that our dogs don't understand that we're trying to help them. All they know is they're going into a space that they may have a very sorted history with as far as they're concerned. I come here and I get stick with sharp things and they do stuff with my bum, and it's all very scary. And on top of that, our dogs are able to perceive what's going on with other animals within the facility, meaning with their sense of smell. They can smell the other animals more oftentimes that are there, don't feel well. They may very well be sick. They also may be scared. There's probably the smell of things like blood or even sickness. There's stress hormones and pheromones. There's all these different stimuli that are involved with a veterinary hospital that is probably pretty scary if you think about it.

So the more that we can help our dogs when there's not an emergency going on, realize that this isn't such a bad place. This is a great place with great people who really care about you. It can help them feel a little bit more comfortable when you do have to go when maybe there is an injury or even just for your checkup that you're doing for your annual checkup for your dog, a little bit of planning can go a really long way. Now, the only thing that I'll say about this is that it's good to partner with your vet with this. What I mean by that is check with the staff to figure out a time that works for them. You don't want to try to do this when they are just swamped with so many patients. You're not looking to try to waltz your dog through a waiting room that's filled with 30 dogs.

That's not going to work, so work with them. Figure out if there's a time during the day that you can go in for five, 10 minutes, it's nice and slow. Maybe it's right at the end of their lunch and it doesn't have to be all the time. If you can do that once a week, once every other week, that'd be fabulous and just something that you're letting your dog know. You know what? This is actually a happy place. This is a place that we do fun things and we see fun people. Sometimes we do this other stuff like they like to look at your bum and stuff, but a lot of the time we're there to have fun. We're there to have the treats and the toys and say hi to the people, and it's great. It's just something to think about. So I'm hoping that you all can recognize just how helpful and powerful it is to better prepare our dogs for what they may see out in the world and throughout their lives.

Really think about, particularly if you've ever had a dog before, what are the kinds of things that they had to experience and go through from puppyhood to the very ends of their lives? What types of things that they have to endure and are there ways that you can help your current dog have a better outlook about those things? Are there ways that you can help prepare them be more successful? What is it that you can do to help ensure that they're not going to be panicked or be overwhelmed by something that they just simply may have to go through for their safety? Particularly when we're talking about medical stuff? The key with all this is make certain that you come up with a plan. You go step by step. Take your time and try to do this when it's not an emergency. At the very least, I hope this podcast got you thinking and when I look forward to this series, we'll be talking about some other things outside of the medical realm. Thanks so much for listening. Happy training. We look forward to seeing you soon.