Poor Clara had her yearly vet visit this past week. She is my feral dog, and although I have two socialization sessions with her every week and she is making great progress, I have not worked with her at the vet. Going to the vet is graduate school, and she’s just to 7th grade or so.
So what do you do when you have to put your dog in a situation for which they are not ready to be comfortable? What I did was take lots of food for distractions and get through it as fast as possible.
For Clara, getting shots or other procedures that cause a bit of pain is not the problem. Being in a building with other people and dogs in close proximity, and being handled and restrained by strangers is. This is by far the most frightened she has ever been at the vet’s, probably because the last time she was there I had to leave her to be spayed, then she came home (the same day) in considerable pain.
I decided to make lemons out of lemonade (not for Clara, unfortunately, but maybe for the rest of us) and take some pictures if I was able to do so while still paying appropriate attention to my petrified dog.
So here are Clara’s “Faces of Stress.” I have labeled the aspects of her expression that generally indicate stress. I’m using some of the terminology in Barbara Handelman’s book Canine Behavior: A Photo Illustrated Handbook.
There are lots of different shots (ya’ll have learned by now that I go overboard with photos, right?) I’ve also included two pictures of Clara when she is relaxed and happy for comparison.
I got almost no full body shots at the vet’s, not only because the room was small, but also because she stayed so close to me. Awww.
On the plus side: as agitated as she was, she took food the whole time. And she showed zero aggression. I’m proud of how very brave she was.
If anyone wants to use any photos for dog body language education project, drop me a line. I’m working on labeling some higher resolution versions and will send them to you when finished.
Does your dog have any interesting “tells” regarding stress?
Coming up soon:
- Using Training Levels for human motivation
- Level 1 Breakfast (quick behavior drills)
- Est-ce que votre chien veut VRAIMENT être caressé ? (Does your dog REALLY want to be petted?–the French version!)
Eileenanddogs on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/eileenanddogs