by Michelle Ferrera, DVM
Every dog owner knows that you should teach your dog to walk well on a leash, and to housetrain them. Many dogs even learn how to “sit”, “stay”, “come“, “down“ , and “leave it”. Training your dog should not end there, however. This article will describe some skills that will make your dog ‘s medical needs much easier to care for.
When I am performing a physical examination, I touch and look at and listen to their bodies all over. You can make this a much less “scary” experience for your pet if you accustom them to having their faces, ears, mouths, legs and tails touched starting when they are young. Don’t try to tackle everything at once, as it can be overwhelming. Use treats and happy voices as an immediate reward for your dog’s cooperation.
Many owners find ear cleaning a challenge. Unfortunately, many dogs first experience with ear cleaning is when they are suffering with a painful ear infection. They learn that touching their ears hurts, and then resist further ear care. It is important to teach your pet that ear cleaning is safe for them when there isn’t a problem. The method that has worked well for me is using cotton balls soaked in ear cleanser placed in the ear canal, and then massage the canal to remove debris. The debris sticks to the cotton ball, and less cleanser is shaken out onto the walls. Make sure you don’t use rubbing alcohol as this will be painful for your pet.
Nail trimming is also another big challenge for many dog owners. It is important that puppies have their feet handled, and that owners use food rewards when training. It is better to trim too little of the nail than too much, as this will cause bleeding and pain to your pet. I tend to grasp the nail with the trimmer blade before I actually trim the nail, as pets will pull their foot away if you are about to cut in a sensitive area. If this happens, I place the trimmer further down the nail, and gently squeeze to ask the pet again if I am going to hurt them. If there is no resistance, then I cut the nail. This has worked well for me even with dogs that have black nails.
As always, ask your veterinarian if you have any questions regarding caring for and medicating your pet.