The Importance of Cooperative Care

Last week I took my dogs in for their annual wellness exam. We had the usual shuffle and reminder — “No, it’s Penny’s turn on the exam table now, you wait on your station for your turn” — but overall, things went very well. Both dogs stationed to wait their turn politely (and were paid with treats for their quiet downs), and both dogs participated willingly in their voluntary blood draws, shots, and physical exams.

The vet tech said the process was “very refreshing,” not having to struggle with a scared animal. I was happy because my pets were happy–we don’t have pets to scare them!–and because we didn’t have to wrestle two large dogs.

Meanwhile, I watched a dozen dogs dragged or carried to exam rooms, scrabbling on the floor to get away or crying in distress. And that’s sad, because it’s so unnecessary.

And it’s not just about the treats! Many of those dogs were offered treats and were still scared. Treats are great, and I’m absolutely going to use them, but it’s even more about the sense of predictability and control, that the dogs are active participants doing a trained behavior, rather than that the exam just happens to them.

Guys, over the weekend (via Clicker Expo) I watched a large male lion participate in a voluntary blood draw. There’s no reason our pets need to be so upset.

Does trained participation make that big a difference, over just holding the dog and getting it done? Friends, I have to pay my dogs, in treats, to wait their turn to get a shot.

And outside of reduced stress, there’s also an improved efficiency and effectiveness with cooperative care. It’s far easier to do a comprehensive exam on a still, cooperative dog, with a better chance to really feel that small lump or examine that spot.

This training is not as hard as people usually assume. You can teach your dog to participate in — not tolerate — regular veterinary procedures, and routine vet visits will be simpler, faster, more effective, and less stressful for the rest of your lives.

Want to get started on cooperative care, and make your future vet visits less stressful for everyone? You can start a self-paced online course at your convenience, or talk to me about training sessions.

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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