Routine Maintenance - An Introduction to Cooperative Care for Primitive Dogs
A day does not go by without a meme of a screaming Shiba Inu, miserable Husky or, fighting Akita gets shared on the internet. The tone is always the same, that these dogs are dramatic and that we should just ignore it and force them to push through the care they are experiencing. For a dog to express itself it is reaching out to you. It could just bite, but it chooses to try and show you the trouble it is having. And we as dumb humans, laugh and say “suck it up”. How sad for our dogs.
There is another way! We can groom and give husbandry to our dogs without it sounding like a murder is being committed. It starts with a change in mindset. Care needs to be cooperative to be healthful. Forcing care on our animals without cooperative communication means we miss messages of pain and illness that are vital to diagnosis. When we have a back and forth dialog with our dogs during care, we are able to better understand their needs and their health.
To incorporate a cooperative care relationship, we must restructure how we prioritize grooming, handling, and wellness. Humans make their health a priority by bathing regularly, caring for our teeth twice a day, taking medicine or vitamins daily, brushing our hair, etc. Yet we almost never do this for our dogs. If we took the time to practice dental, nail and exam procedures daily, we would not have the struggles we have today at the vet and the groomer. Too many owners think it is the vet or groomer’s responsibility to do the restraining, grooming, and hygiene care for their pet. That is incorrect. This care should be done at home.
Incorporating cooperative care into your daily routine
Just like for yourself, add in care exercises with your pet. Everything you do with them should include food. We will go over step by step instructions for more of these things in future articles, but this will get you started.
Start practicing wherever you are. This means if you dog is scared of you holding their paw, simply reward them for having their paw in your hand. If they are afraid of the brush, feed them in proximity of the brush. It’s okay if you have a long way to go, but still practice daily. And go slow! Slow steady progress will build a stronger foundation than rushed results.
Holding of paws - Practice taking your dog’s paw in your hand and having it rest there without having to clamp down on it. Increase duration with all 4 feet.
Touching of nails - Separate nails, push back fur and even touch their nails with a clipper or dremel.
Contact with a brush - Gently touch your dog all over with a brush, even when not shedding or blowing coat.
Checking teeth and ear - Practice opening lips, rubbing teeth, looking in ears, and gently handling their face.
Checking for hair mats - For longer coated breeds, check behind ears and under armpits for mats. This is also preparation for winter months when ice builds up in the coat.
Medicine Treats - give a treat that would normally contain medicine if your dog was sick or recovering from something. That way when they are being medicated, they won’t be suspicious of treats that might contain medicine.
Nail trim or dremel - Depending on nail growth, do 1 nail, 1 foot, or all 4 feet each week. This should not be a fight. Do what you can with your dog calmly or happily cooperating and allowing you to shorten nails without them pulling back.
Gentle restraint holds - While feeding your dog, gently wrap your arm around their back and under their waist, and around the neck and head.
Gentle exam and poking around in the dog’s rear - Temperatures have to be taken and anal glands cleared so touch your dog here routinely while feeding them. Fighting you on this is the last thing anyone wants when they are sick or uncomfortable.
Gentle touching with a stethoscope - Press a stethoscope against every part of their body while feeding them. This will allow for easier vet exams.
Start with these tasks and take your time. Grooming and vet care should be an intimate and safe experience for all involved. If your dog has a history of extreme fear, or biting, train your dog to wear a muzzle prior to these exercises to keep everyone safe. You can find muzzle training instructions here: http://www.kindredcompanions.com/muzzle-training/
Make sure your vet is on board with maintaining a safe and comfortable experience for your dog. Ask your vet if they are "Fear Free" or if they would be interested in becoming certified. More information on Fear Free can be found here: https://fearfreepets.com/
Tell us in the group how your cooperative care is going! Show off your successes and ask questions. We are always happy to help!