Are your pets apprehensive about veterinary visits? Sometimes agreeable to the visit itself but
detest certain portions or procedures involved? Do you wish there was something more you could do to
curb some of this stress, while also strengthening the bond you have with your best friend? Believe it or
not, basic training techniques can be tools for doing just this; and there’s no better time to start than
now. January is ‘National Train Your Dog Month’ – don’t worry feline parents, these training tips are for
cats too! Training is both mentally stimulating and confidence enhancing; two essential ingredients for
your pet’s overall success and happiness.
This article focuses on one simple, tried, and true method: “clicker training”. Please note that
many types of training exist and continue to evolve. If your pet has issues with aggression or severe
anxiety, it is best to consult a professional trainer and your veterinarian directly. Medications are
sometimes recommended to decrease your pet’s stress level and increase safety measures.
For training, you will only need a clicker gadget and some small treats. Ideally, treats should be
pea to blueberry size, and low in fat and kilocalories. For less food motivated pets, use a favorite toy,
activity, or affection as a reward instead. Focus on one task per session and keep sessions short – 15
minutes or less. Ask your pet to perform a task – the second it is completed press the clicker to say ‘yes’,
then offer reward and praise. Repeat several times, until your pet becomes confident. If your pet
performs an inappropriate behavior or maneuver, try to avoid saying ‘no’; instead, ignore this and
repeat desired instruction. Saying ‘no’ can be confusing in training, as it’s more of a disciplinary term.
the session on a positive note (ex. Hulk knows ‘sit’ and is working on ‘lay down’, but not quite grasping it
and becoming frustrated. Ask him to perform a quick ‘sit’, reward him, and end the session).
Hulk hates nail trims? Approach this in stages. Pet and grasp leg, starting high and working
down. Each time he allows you closer to the paw without a negative reaction, click and reward. This is
called desensitization. Eventually, hold the paw, wiggle toes, touch nails – click and reward with each
step – this may need to be done several days to weeks before attempting to trim the nails. When you’re
ready, have high value rewards available – canned food, their squeakiest toy, whatever they really want.
Able to trim one nail? Don’t get greedy; high value reward and a ton of praise – this is a big deal for
them! Next time, try getting more nails done before the reward and so on. Try this technique for
bathing, ear handling, tooth brushing, and leash and pet taxi training too! All are important for reducing
stress at a vet visit.
How does one get Hulk to respect the leash, and Miss Tubbles to feel safe in the pet taxi? First,
allow Hulk to familiarize himself to wearing the leash at home while lounging around – offer rewards and
praise throughout this acclimation process. Next, call him to you – each time he comes, click and
reward. This encourages heeling and discourages pulling or biting at the leash. Graduate to walking him
around inside, then move on to doing so outside. Every so often, reward him to continue the positive
correlation with the leash. Miss Tubbles and other cats can be leash trained as well but ideally, they and
very small dogs would arrive at the vet in their pet taxi to keep them especially safe from potential
harm. For taxi training, place it with Miss Tubbles in a small room and let her get used to its presence,
investigating it, even for several days. Place treats inside, on top of, leading up to the taxi. Place a
favorite blanket or toy inside the taxi, and even a spritz of calming spray (i.e. Feliway). Offer reward and
praise for each time Miss Tubbles investigates the taxi positively, each time you close the door while
she’s inside, each time you carry her inside the taxi, and so on and so forth.
Hopefully, by introducing some of these training techniques, you can refine your pet’s behavior
and allow them more comfort with tasks they don’t necessarily love – maybe even make vet visits
something they look forward to! Happy training!
Orange City Family Animal Care
(712) 707-CARE (2273)