Training at the Vet Clinic

Doberman puppy on trampoline

I didn’t take a new pic of Undómiel (10 months) today, so please enjoy this flashback to 8 weeks old.

No time like the present…. Undómiel and I had to make a trip yesterday to the veterinary clinic for an irritation on her face, and while I had planned to get around to teaching a chin rest for vet exams and treatment, I hadn’t actually done it yet.

Yes, professionals can be lazy and distracted, too. Guilty.

A solid chin rest can be invaluable for vet exams, especially of the head or face. So there we are, sitting in the exam room waiting for the doctor, and I decided to get started. A few clicks in, I realized it’d be good to get some video of the process. Forgive the angle; the phone is propped on my purse beside us.

Note that whenever Undómiel pulls back her head (because she thought she spied a missed treat, or she heard a noise, or whatever), I let her leave without question. This paradoxically but effectively makes it more likely she’ll stay stable later — because she knows she can leave any time, she doesn’t have to get twitchy under stress wondering if it’s a trap.

Again, I refer to the dentist’s chair parallel — I will struggle a lot less in a chair into which I put myself and where I can ask for a break if I need than I will if I am pinned in that chair by someone else.

We got a nice start, as you can see — freely offered, with good firm pressure on my palm. However, it wasn’t good enough to hold up under the new experience of having a strange man lean over her head and take a skin scraping — and why would it be, after barely a minute of practice?

So I didn’t ask for it. When we decided to take a scraping (and she has to be still for that, for safety reasons, because we’re using a blade on her face), I opted for gentle restraint. I settled the 2″ collar against the back of her skull and applied soft pressure forward, just enough to engage her opposition reflex to lean back against it. This did most of the stabilizing, and then I also gently caged her muzzle to keep it vertically still. We got the scraping quickly and without incident, and then I paid big for tolerance.

Why not use our new training? Because it was too new, without a strong enough history of reinforcement to carry her through the uncomfortable procedure. I don’t want her to have a memory of feeling uncertain during the chin rest, I only want positive anticipation, so I’m not going to put it under stress testing until it’s ready. I want to use this to save time and effort over the next decade or so; I can wait a little bit to be sure it’s ready.

Next time, it should be ready. (If you want to start your own chin rests, one good resource is Laura Monaco-Torelli’s “Ready, Set! For Groomer and Vet” series. You can always trust a blonde Laura with three names!)

Fear-Free Vet Visits

A big bonus is that my vet and clinic were totally on board with our practice. After the scraping I quickly ran through a series of more fun exercises with Undómiel, including sending her to jump on and off the exam table (little mountain goat loves that sort of thing). She bounded right in front of the walking doctor, nearly tripping him. I apologized, and he said, “No, don’t apologize! It’s great!”

Good vets know that comfortable pets require fewer veterinary man-hours over the course of their lives (no extra techs needed to muzzle and restrain!) and can receive earlier diagnosis and better care. Training for veterinary visits is to everyone’s benefit, dog’s, doctor’s, and owner’s.

While my clinic is not yet a Free-Free clinic, they recognize the benefits of training. What are you doing to make vet visits as smooth and painless as possible?

(By the way, the scraping revealed demodectic mange — nasty little mites taking up residence on her face. She’s started on treatment and should be just fine.)

About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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One Comment

  1. Great post Laura! So happy Undomiel is on the road to recovery.

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