‘My dog has not eaten anything for past three days’ says the harried owner of a Spitz. Known for their snappiness, the Vet recommends a course of injections as the dog is suffering from an infection. Majority of dogs turn snappy when it comes to medication either in tablet or in liquid form. Even the injections are quite a problem, but with the help of assistance the Vet virtually ‘pins the dog down’ and completes his job.
The trauma of visit to a Vet’s clinic is ever lasting. About two years ago I played host to a ten year old Lhasa apso bitch. All of a sudden she fell sick. I decided to take her to the Vet whom her owners used to consult. She sat perfectly like a lady in the car, till we reached near the Vet’s clinic. Her uncanny sense of smell gave her a message that she was in the area where she has to suffer a torture and within seconds she was whimpering and jumping from front to back seat of the car. In fact it was hazardous to drive with her like that. On seeing her, the Vet told me ‘she comes to me every year for this ailment’ and with the help of an assistant he nonchalantly went about locating a vein on her foreleg to start an intravenous drip. All the time the wriggling creature had to be pressed down to the Vet’s table. The trauma was written large in her dilated pupils. Unfortunately the bitch could not survive the infection, but the incident gave me the idea of teaching dog owners how to simplify the task of medication orally or via injections.
I would like to repeat my oft repeated statement-dogs are creatures of routine and learn by association of ideas. To condition them to accept medicine is one of the easiest things one can imagine. Just a bit of ingenuity is required. Start the training as early in the life of the dog as possible. I recommend from the day you bring the new pup home the medication training should start. To train one does not need real medicine as such. Just gently lift the pup and place him on the table. Make him sit by gently pressing his hind portion. Go on caressing the pup as you talk to him in most soothing tone. Place your left hand fingers over his muzzle encircling it till your fingers press the point on his cheek where his jaws meet. As this point where the bones of the upper and lower jaws are joined is pressed he is forced to open his mouth. At that moment push your left thumb in his mouth and hold his palate. Once the palate is held like that no dog can shut his mouth. As soon as the mouth opens you swiftly push a tiny piece of choicest tidbit in his mouth held between the fore and middle fingers of your right hand. Leave the tidbit deep in the mouth and shut his mouth with your fingers, gently caressing his throat with your fingers. The moment you feel he has ‘gulped the medicine’ praise him with all the honey in your voice and release. Repeat this routine everyday at the same time. You will notice that he will take his ‘position’ without being cajoled or coaxed to sit and expect your fingers on his muzzle.
In no time your pup has inadvertently learnt to accept oral medicines. Unfortunately if ever he needs to be given a tablet you can follow the same ritual with a difference that after medicating him do reward him with a tidbit as well while seated on the table. This will strengthen his faith in you.
There is another way to ‘bluff’ old dogs especially for owners who are too weak to control their dogs. Take a biscuit and moisten it. Place the tablet on the moist biscuit and make a small ball. Make the dog sit on the table and hold his neck with left hand and put the ‘biscuit ball’ close to his nostrils. He will open his mouth himself, you have just to push in the ball and hold his mouth shut, till it is gulped down. Many dogs are shrewd and make out the contents of the biscuit ball and turn their faces away. The first method of systematically training a dog to accept the tablet however, never fails.
Unlike us dogs can not spit. Yet they have an uncanny way of throwing out liquid medicines. There is an easy way of teaching your dog to accept them. Again take your pup to the same table and make him sit. This time shut his mouth with both hands and insert your right thumb in the space in his lips where the two jaws join. The lose lips at this place can be pulled out to for a tiny cup. Keep ready five milliliter sugar solution in a disposable syringe from which the needle has been taken off. Pour the sweet solution in this cup with the help of the disposable syringe. Alternatively you may use a dropper as well. Once the solution has been poured in place, hold the lip in that position till all of it travels inside. After that while holding his mouth shut just stroke his neck with your fingers and praise him for being a good boy. Repeat the procedure every day. You may do it just after teaching him to accept the tablet. Soon your dog will start accepting even the bitterest medicine. But never forget to pour few drops of reward after he has had the medicine.
If desired you may decide to use separate commands for the two types of ‘medicines.’ In the initial blogs I had said dogs are like computers. Yes they are. That is why they need to be given a daily practice of whatever you want them to do. Since you never know when they will have to be administered medicine and in what form, it is better to keep them trained for the tablets and the liquid.
A constant practice also teaches the dog that whatever master does is always for his good. Generation of this confidence in the pup is important to make him accept the jab of the needle. Usually puppies get vaccinated at early age. Thus medicine (oral) training should star early. On the day of vaccination keep some special reward ready. For example personally I prefer small pieces of fried liver. Ninety-nine percent dogs accept it even after the pain of the jab of the needle. Wrap them in a cellophane paper and keep them in your pocket making lots of noise. So that the pup gets the whiff of it and keeps guessing! While the Vet starts his job you should be ready to act fast. As soon as the needle is out place the piece of liver close to the nostril of the pup. He will surely go for it and forget the pain of the needle. Follow the same procedure for all future injections.
My most dogs used to accept the needle willingly. I had trained them to respond to command of ‘Injection’ and they would turn their hind portion towards me offering their butt for the needle.
While training dogs most of the owners want to learn the technique of making their dogs perform various tricks, but these small tricks of making dog accept the tablet or the needle are I feel more important. They save the life of the dog.