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Decreasing stress and anxiety for our dogs

August 11, 2017

Some dogs find veterinary visits a little worrying and they may experience some minor stress.  Other dogs may have a true phobia of being checked over or touched.  Do look for a Vet that endorses force free handling as my own Vets do. Even if your dog does not experience any stress or fear about visiting the Vet or being checked over/having nails trimmed etc it is still a good idea to play this game with them. It is also known as the Bucket Game or Game of Choice, designed by Chriag Patel. The idea is to empower our dogs to let us know how they feel about something.  The idea is to build up a solid eye contact with a bucket of treats.  Once this has been carried out, we increase the duration of the eye contact with the bucket and then very gradually introduce moving our hands, picking up things like paw balm, checking their ears, tail, paws, nail clippers and so on. The idea is to empower our dog to let us know when to start, when to stop and when to carry on.

Over a series of blogs/videos I will attempt to show you the journey my own dog is making.  He experienced an urgent stomach operation and had to spend two nights in for observation afterwards.  This included needing a drip in his front paw.  Consequently, he avoids being touched or checked over, having associated these things with pain and discomfort (and probably being away from home).  

The first step, as already mentioned is to build up a good eye contact with the bucket.  The dog can stand, sit or lie down.  As soon as he looks at the bucket (using a clear one showing the treats inside often helps), give him a small food treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat.  The next step is to build up the duration of the eye contact.  Gradually increase the duration before giving the food treat.  If your dog gets up and leaves the area, do not go after him.  He has communicated he doesn't want to continue.  Remember, this is a game of choice. Training should be for a short duration such as 3 minutes at a time. It is a good idea to start the training on a portable bed or cushion as this will become associated with the bucket game and can eventually be taken to the Vets/Groomers etc.

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