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MemberJanuary 7, 2024 at 9:22 am
What did you learn that was new to you?
I had never heard of the technique where you lift one of the hind legs off the ground and use your body weight to urge the dog to sit.
How did the dog respond to your approach?
All the dogs I worked with were from my neighborhood, so many of them were already familiar with me. All the dogs I worked with were in a positive frame of mind and had relaxed body postures.
What facial expressions, postures, or gestures did you notice, and how did you interpret them?
One neighbor has a Golden Retriever as well, so when I approached him, he was doing the full body wiggle and grunting while he showed me that he had a tennis ball in his mouth. I interpreted that as he was very happy to see me because he wanted to play. It took 3 verbal commands before he was calm enough to sit.
My dogs, Nemo and Sally, have been trained well and they respond to my first commands. Evie has only been with us for a month and it is clear that she had very minimal training. She is very willing and has learned to sit easily. We are still working on down and stay. No stress indicators observed.
If you are experienced in canine behavior and handling, what aspects of the material do you feel are most essential?
I think it is essential to reinforce the idea that canines are, in fact, predators. Their reactions will be determined by how they perceive their environment and if they feel safe. Practitioners need to be aware of even the most subtle stress indicators and be prepared to manage any escalation in a safe manner.
Do you have a story about an experience with behavior and handling that exemplifies the importance of proper equipment and handling?
I was working as a technician in a veterinary clinic when I was in college. We had a woman call and ask if we had any availability to vaccinate her “extremely fear aggressive” border collie. The dog was a working dog and spent the majority of his time in the fields working sheep and cattle. She warned that she had been requested to “not return” to 3 other clinics throughout the years. We agreed and early one Saturday morning, before other clients arrived, we opened the clinic to this woman and her dog. I had already set up all the vaccines and had the tubes ready for the blood draw. The doctor gave the woman Ace to give to the dog before bringing him into the clinic. The dog already had a soft muzzle on and he was well behaved for the owner when getting the weight. He had strong verbal commands and listened well to the owner’s instructions. I went into the room and elected to utilize the ear thermometer instead of a rectal thermometer (which was more common at the time). I entered the room and began asking questions so the dog would have a chance to adjust to me. I had the owner give a series of basic commands to ensure his attention was on her. I then approached from the side and gently touched him on the side of the neck. I was able to get a temperature even with the growling and posturing. His pupils were fully dilated, he was panting rapidly, his muzzle was completely soaked, his body was trembling, and he was lunging at me as I moved away from him. The owner requested that we fully sedate him, so I stepped out of the room to consult with the Vet.
During this time, another technician had entered the room to make sure everything was set up. I walked into the room to let the owner know that the vet was drawing up a sedative and would be in shortly. The other technician assumed that I wanted to draw blood and get a fecal sample before the vet arrived. She grabbed the dog and swung him up onto the exam table. In this process, she did not keep the dog pressed close to her body and the dog got one of his front paws loose and clawed her face. It split her lower lip open from the top to just below the curve of her chin. I assume there was a lot of adrenaline going through her system because she seemed unaware that she had been injured. I stepped to the opposite side of the table and told her she needed to step out of the room and clean up because she had some blood on her. I was attempting to get her to relinquish control of the dog, but she second guessed my hold and during the exchange the dog managed to turn his head and bite the pinnae of my ear despite having a muzzle on.
The other technician and I both ended up getting stitches to take care of our injuries. Over the course of the following year, I started helping the woman with some farm chores. By the time vaccinations were due again the dog was accustomed to me. I had one of the vets meet me at the farm and we did the annual physical in one of the stalls. The dog still had a muzzle on, and we still gave him oral sedation before the vet arrived, but because we were not lifting him up and he didn’t have to suffer through a car ride and go into a strange building he was much better behaved that year.
How has knowing how to read dog behavior kept you and the dog safe?
I have been working with animals in one form or another for the past 30 years. Being able to read body language and understanding an animal’s motivation has allowed me to safely manage most situations. Making sure that I am aware of the potential environmental stressors as well as the stress response signs various animals exhibit has given me the ability to try and mitigate problems before they become a crisis.