(This is an old blog post, originally dated December 4, 2005. I’m copying it from my now-defunct Puppy and a Plan blog to here, as I know some like to reference it.)
Laev had an inflammation of the third eyelid which was matting her eyes with nasty stuff, so we got some ointment on Nov. 21 for treatment. I had visions of wrestling with a ever-larger puppy to insert goo, and this was compounded by my own eyeball hangup (I’m one of those people who can listen to fingernails on a blackboard, but don’t talk about eyeball contact).
Well, heck, I’m fresh off ClickerExpo and a series of wonderful workshops with video footage of tigers volunteering to get stuck with 6″ needles. What kind of lousy trainer am I if I can’t convince my dog to handle this minimally invasive procedure?
So I stuck an iClick under my foot so I had two hands (love that thing) and clicked Laev for resting her chin on my palm. Then I added handling her face. Then I added the ointment approaching her eye. Then I finally held her eyelid open (lumping!) and applied the ointment. Click! Treat! Repeat for other eye.
Laev probably won’t solicit this as a game, but she has no problems with it, either. Ain’t this stuff cool?
Clicking with the Vet
Her eyes cleared up pretty well, and we had no more problems. Then Laev woke up Friday morning and couldn’t open one eye. It was filled with mucus and matter, and when we couldn’t successfully clean it and it appeared to be bothering her (no pawing at it, but she sure wasn’t happy with us handling it) I took her in to the vet again.
The vet took one look and was nearly positive of a corneal scratch. Stink! So we prepared to confirm it.
I’d brought my clicker and some excellent treats, and I told the vet I wanted to use our training with only mild restraint rather than making this an ordeal which would haunt us later. She agreed, and so we began. We cleaned Laev’s eye, applied numbing drops, applied stain, flushed the eye, examined it, etc., all with only very mild restraint and guidance!! Laev was asked to rest her chin on my hand with my thumb lying lightly over her muzzle, and then we used some pressure to open her eyelid.
The vet kept telling Laev, “You’re so good! You’re so good!”
I was thrilled with how she did. Even though I can only imagine how irritating so much handling and intrusion must have been, even aside from the physical hurt of her eye, she was a real trooper and worked very well with our fussiness.
And I was also thrilled to learn that she did not have a corneal scratch, but only some truly massive conjunctivitis; probably she ground some stuff into her eye while doing one of her recreational headstands (she’s a nutty dog) and started the whole process again. I swear, she needs a helmet with a full face shield.
Anyway, it was a fantastic example of how a little proactive training can ease the dog’s (and human’s!) stress levels in the vet clinic. Laev was still wagging and licking the vet’s face at the end of the visit, and while she showed some small amount of stress, she wasn’t in any real avoidance. She was MUCH better behaved than I would have been in a similar situation! And, the process took only a few seconds longer than it would have taken if we’d relied on restraint alone.
I’m betting we’ll make up those few seconds over the lifetime of the dog when future visits get progressively easier instead of harder. 😉
Just braggin’ on my dog….