Still An Easy Pill To Swallow

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series An Easy Pill to Swallow

I’ve written before about training my dogs to take undisguised pills on cue. There’s a host of benefits to this:

  • I don’t have to worry about hiding the pills
  • I don’t have to worry about coming up with ever better tricks as my dogs get better at finding hidden pills
  • There’s no loss of trust when I hand my dog something she thinks is a treat and it turns out to be a pill (cue extreme side-eye)
  • I don’t have to guess whether the pills been actually swallowed or saved to spit later

This isn’t that hard to train, it just takes some time — though I suspect it does move faster with a clean slate than with a dog who has already learned to be suspicious of pill-laden treats.

Many people assume that the Labrador (breed standard: eat anything that doesn’t eat you first) would be easy, but in fact the Doberman will perform this behavior for lower pay. But as you can see, Penny is also just fine with the game; we just have to pay her a bit better. Undómiel will take pills for nearly anything; Penny says cheese or a piece of tortilla is fine, thank you.

The pills shown here are small, and as you see I both hold them in my fingertips and let the dogs lick them from my hand, we don’t really have a preference in my house. If your dog has a preference, honor it. The key is that the dog knows it’s a pill before she takes it.

Four pills in under 30 seconds, including prep and cleanup. Training is such a time-saver! (In case you wondered: I’m scattering a bit of leftover dry shredded cheese at the end for my canine vacuums to clean up. Easier than putting it back in a bag and occasionally makes pill time a bit of extra fun.)

My husband pilled the dogs one night and reported some resistance on their part. I was surprised to hear this and observed the next attempt (we were doing two pills twice a day at this time, so plenty of opportunities). I concluded, “Oh, they think you’re just getting them treats. They don’t know it’s a pill you’re handing them until it’s in their mouth and they’re surprised by it. Nobody likes to take a bite of something and find out it’s something else entirely, no matter what it is, that’s a basic survival instinct! Next time, make sure they see it’s a pill and give them the verbal cue so they know exactly what’s happening.”

Sure enough, the dogs were happily cooperative from then on.

Remember to be honest with your learner — trust is important! — and remember that you can train all kinds of things if you split the criteria and pay well.

Series Navigation<< An Easy Pill to Swallow, Training to Take Pills the Easy Way, Part 3

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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