Behaviour Tip of the Month

Pets get a lot of human handling throughout their lives. Most of it they quite like but sometimes we force a cuddle that they tolerate, but not necessarily enjoy due to the forced restraint and possible discomfort. This might show when they struggle or resist your holding of them to apply a topical parasite control product or give medication. You can make your and your pets’ lives easier by teaching them that human touch makes good stuff happen, and in turn minimizing restraint to that which is only absolutely necessary.

This invaluable process also works to help with bathing, grooming, nail trimming, catching and holding onto their collar or lifting up your pet. Begin by pairing non-invasive touches to your pet while giving a tasty treat. Start somewhere non-threatening, like a touch to the side of the neck. Touch, give a treat. Touch, give a treat. Look for your pets face to light up when you touch them and head to look towards your treat giving hand. This shows your pet is associating your touch to receiving a treat.

When this happens consistently, move your touch to other parts of the body that your pet might be less comfortable with, like ears, paws, mouth, under chest and belly. Then you can start to incorporate items into the training too, like parasite control, a pretend tablet, brush, nail clippers, lead/harness etc. If your pet refuses the treat or pulls away from you, you may have proceeded too quickly; back up and proceed slower.

Keep the treats high value and give at a high rate, especially when your pet is less comfortable having that area touched. Keep this process up regularly to help your pet learn and remember the good association. As well as doing this process with procedures you do regularly like applying parasite control and grooming, do this process with procedures that may not be an issue for you just yet. One day you may need to give ear medication or retrieve something from your pet’s mouth; then all your practising will pay off.