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Old 04-30-2013, 10:27 PM
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Default Puppies, vets, fear periods

Picking your brains on a scenario

We had a puppy come in last week. 12 week old "shorkie poo." Weighs a whopping 2 pounds. Owner suspects an ear infection. I go in the room, get my history, get my ear swabs. As soon as I touch the dog's ear she starts shrieking and flailing. Okay fine, I manage anyway.

Vet does an exam and can hardly even see in the ear with an otoscope because there is so much hair clogging the canal. So she wants us to pluck it out. Vet brings puppy back to us, tells us to just do the best we can because the puppy was screaming and nipping at her during the whole exam.

So we start plucking, cue shrieking puppy. And she's throwing a tantrum and gnawing on my hands the whole time. Now since she's only 2 pounds, I'm being very careful not to crush her as I'm holding her... but, I need her to sit still. She screams a blood curdling scream the entire time.

Owner calls in today. Puppy's behavior has done a complete 180 ever since they were in. She's now wary of people and extra bitey. Says this happened because we "tortured" the dog.

Okay. I think this dog is/was probably in the middle of a fear period? My question for you guys then is, what do you think vet staff can do in these cases to minimize the trauma? Or what can owners do? I feel bad when puppies come in for more than simple vaccines because I feel like these procedures just ruin their entire outlook on things... but I don't know how or if it can really be avoided.
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:32 PM
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I offer desensitization services for things like this. Nail trims are another big one. Basically, as often as the owner can, they bring the dog in to spend time with me so that I can work with the dog on whatever issues they have. I explain the process, thresholds, patterns and what I do to classically condition the dog into enjoying whatever they previously don't like. These services are free to the client because to be honest, we would much rather work with a cooperative dog than one who hates being at the clinic.

As far as the puppy above, no that is not a typical puppy reaction and is shouldn't be written off as a fear period. That puppy would benefit from desensitization to general handling like I explained above. The owner needs to be a big part of it as well if it has generalized to outside scenarios. The more work they do NOW with this puppy, the better it's life will be.
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaraB View Post
I offer desensitization services for things like this. Nail trims are another big one. Basically, as often as the owner can, they bring the dog in to spend time with me so that I can work with the dog on whatever issues they have. I explain the process, thresholds, patterns and what I do to classically condition the dog into enjoying whatever they previously don't like. These services are free to the client because to be honest, we would much rather work with a cooperative dog than one who hates being at the clinic.
That is so amazing that you do that. I wish vets around here were even remotely inclined that way. You basically have to convince them even to let you bring the pup in other than appointment times! Drives me crazy.
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:47 PM
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Being a groomer, I see this all the time. People bring us a 6 month old Yorkie MIX that has never been groomed and not properly brushed etc. They are NIGHTMARES. They shriek and scream if you even touch them. We tend to try and work with them, offer rewards for good behavior etc. However, we too only have a limited amount of time to get out work done so there are some things that either don't get done at all or only half ass. We always tell people that they need to be aware, that we may not get the full groom done and that it may not look as good as it could cause this is the first time, traumatic etc when they haven't been worked with before. We always tell the client that we want them to like grooming, ease them into it. BUT even with that spiel we still get people who call saying we tortured the dang puppy, no idiot, you did by not socializing it and taking care of it properly, while we can't say that, we definitely think it.

I have no idea but lately the little Yorkie mixes have been the absolute worst. I mean BAD.

I agree with Sara's advice, desensitization is the best way to combat this but the owner has to be willing. I've had some owners put the effort in and their dogs are awesome now and others who haven't and their dogs will never look as good as they could because I simply can not risk their safety to make them look good, function over beauty.
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Old 04-30-2013, 10:53 PM
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I still feel bad because I think I ruined Jackson as a puppy. I brought him to a vets office, who I quickly thereafter determined I did not like, but he went there for his first 2 vet visits with me for shots. But they were just very grabby with him, man-handled him, and weren't very gentle. He also had a horrific reaction to the lepto vaccine so I had to rush him back and they brought him in the back real quick, etc... I think it traumatized him. He hates the vets ever since.

But he's not really the type to flail, screech, etc, he more completely shuts down, and slinks, and puts ears back. But there was another incident where I needed his nails clipped and I was with a friend at Petsmart who was getting her dogs nails clipped, so I thought what the heck. Well they literally grabbed him and because he was trying to get out of their grip, one person held on, the other muzzled him, while they quickly clipped his nails. OMG I felt SO bad, and cannot believe I didn't just stop them. He released his anal glands from being so scared (now he does this EVERY time we go to the vets) and he still 4 years later, freezes up at the register at Petsmart because he thinks we're going to the grooming room.

But these two incidents set us back far with trusting stranger issues. If I had a do-over, I would've taken him to the vet the very first time and just done nothing. Gotten some treats, got on a scale, and left or something. I also would've researched my vets first.

It's hard to say though - it's like, I understand vets and techs don't have all day to try de-sensitizing a dog to whatever needs to be done. I mean, it's gotta be done obviously and they have a job to do. So it's understandable why they just grab the dog and do it.

I'm not really sure what could be done, other than SaraB's de-sensitization services. That sounds absolutely amazing!
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:24 AM
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I think a lot of it depends on the puppy too... I mean, if they are naturally confident, they are going to take it a lot better.

On another note, not to derail the thread, but blood draws. How do you get a dog to hold still/not be scared? I mean, you can't really go around sticking a needle in them and shoving chicken in their face.
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:37 AM
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This is one of the many reasons I'm thankful for Chaz. While Gwen wasn't a 'puppy' when we got her (she was around 8 months old), I decided to still do some things with her that you would with a puppy. I constantly messed with her face, feet, tail, just any part of HER in general. (Except the lady parts. I don't think I'll ever need to go THERE.)

I've taken her to get shots and she just stood there and let them do whatever they needed to do. I will say I think a lot of it is her reaction is also to 'shut down' when she's nervous, as well as the vet's handling of her. They are gentle and encourage you to talk to your dog to comfort her. One of the ladies even told me that she would hold her while they were doing the fecal test so that she wouldn't associate ME with shoving something up her butt. I thought that was considerate.

She still doesn't like having her nails clipped. I have to do a few at a time. It's definitely a process but we've only done it twice now, so I'm sure she'll improve. (And I mistakenly started with a nail grinder, which really freaked her out and made little progress on her talons.)

I wish more people would mess around with their dogs, ESPECIALLY if they're getting some 'poo. I'm not a groomer, but that has GOT to be one of those "Ugh... it's one of THOSE" moments. I felt bad when I left Gwen at the boarding place because I didn't how she'd react. And I didn't want her to be one of THOSE dogs.

At least she's not a 'poo.
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:50 AM
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It's frustrating when they come in at 12 weeks (or any age, really) already shrieking, flailing, and nipping. Especially when it's for a problem that needs to be addressed within a limited time period. If it's a well puppy visit at least you don't necessarily have to do anything involving restraint or procedures and can work to make it a positive experience. But if you have to do stuff like swab the ear, you just have to... do stuff like swab the ear.

IMO the owner has to be really committed to working with you on desensitizing to handling. Sadly most people can't or won't come in between visits to work on it IME. If they won't, your hands are tied a little bit within the time constraints that you have. But at the very, very least you can interact with the puppy/dog using good "dog manners" and even that can win over some of these dogs enough to make the visit less traumatic for everyone.

I would also suggest not doing stuff like that "in the back." Some dogs are better away from their owners, but hearing their dog screaming from elsewhere in the clinic is really stressful for people and will almost always lead to accusations of mistreatment.
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meepitsmeagan View Post
I think a lot of it depends on the puppy too... I mean, if they are naturally confident, they are going to take it a lot better.

On another note, not to derail the thread, but blood draws. How do you get a dog to hold still/not be scared? I mean, you can't really go around sticking a needle in them and shoving chicken in their face.
For blood draws, I think a lot of it is the restraint. Get the dog used to being held in a bear hug, with its leg out, and its vein rolled off. Get them used to sitting still with their head lifted up and having pressure on their neck for a jug stick. I would say at least 75% of the dogs that are "bad for blood draws" start flipping out as soon as you restrain them. They often don't notice the poke, or the draw, they just don't like the entire process. If you get them used to the restraint, then when they're poked they're already used to the process and you are only keeping them distracted from the poke (which chicken works nicely for!), not the entire process.

I do try to keep things as positive for puppies as I can. I let them nibble on tasty treats during the "scary" parts of the exam and during the vaccines. If a pup is already screaming/biting with just very basic handling, we tell the owners they need to work on desensitizing it to the various things, or it won't mature to be a tolerant dog. If something has to be done, it has to be done. We just explain to the owners ahead of time what we are doing and how their dog is likely to react (He really doesn't like me even touching his ears, so he is probably going to throw a fit when I get this hair out. It won't hurt him, he just isn't going to like it. Once we get this cleaned up, it is going to be important to get him used to having his ears handled so he associates with posiitive things...")
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:10 PM
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For blood draws, I think a lot of it is the restraint. Get the dog used to being held in a bear hug, with its leg out, and its vein rolled off. Get them used to sitting still with their head lifted up and having pressure on their neck for a jug stick. I would say at least 75% of the dogs that are "bad for blood draws" start flipping out as soon as you restrain them. They often don't notice the poke, or the draw, they just don't like the entire process. If you get them used to the restraint, then when they're poked they're already used to the process and you are only keeping them distracted from the poke (which chicken works nicely for!), not the entire process.
Thank you! Unfortunately, Rider goes in tomorrow, so I don't have a ton of time. But I will work on that right now. I appreciate it.
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