Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stranger Is Not a Danger

I'm a Worst Case Scenario kind of girl. I will play "what if" and "what's the worst that could happen" for days before making a final decision. Yeah, it's a downer sometimes. But I can say that I've never run out of gas, been mauled by a bear or abducted by aliens -- and I owe it to my pessimistic, plan for the worst point of view.

This thinking also trickles down to my pets (who are vaccinated, microchipped and always wearing up-to-date tags). My Training Tips Tuesday post follows this train of thought. As an Animal Control Officer I often see people's pets in less than ideal circumstances. A dog -- or cat -- who may be a total sweetheart at home is often a real jerk for me. (I hear the same from vet techs all the time.) But chances are there is some point in a pet's life where it's going to be handled by a stranger. Here are three things you can do to make that time easier and less stressful for everybody involved.

Ketch Pole
  • Socialize early and often. Expose your pets to all kinds of people: male, female, tall, short, black, white, thin, fat, with and without glasses, hats, facial hair, etc. Doctors Ian Dunbar and Sophia Yin have some great information on this.
For my safety I've had to use muzzles and Ketch Poles on poorly socialized dogs. Although safe and humane, these tools raise the stress level in the animals significantly.
  • standard slip lead
    Leash train your dogs (even the little ones). Again, start early and do it often. Whenever possible, have people other than you walk your dog on a leash. A leash should mean "we're going this way" and be a positive thing.
Dogs unfamiliar with leashes panic when I drop a slip lead around their necks. They pull and scream and flop around trying to get away. They'll urinate and defecate uncontrollably. Sometimes they hurt themselves in the process. It's really sad, especially if it can be prevented.
  • Grab him good!
    Routinely manhandle your pet. Touch his feet, look in his ears, wipe is eyes, open his mouth, lift up his tail, touch his genitals, rub his belly, tug on his collar. You want your pet to think that these touches are no big deal. Otherwise, someone's going to get bit if they touch your dog -- and that opens up a whole other bunch of problems.
This is the kind of handling that animal control officers, veterinarians and groomers may need to do while working with your animals. If your pet is calm and cooperative it's easier to check for age, sex, read a tag or look for a microchip -- and therefore easier to return home.
I hope I never pick up your pet. I promise that if I do, I'll keep him as comfortable and stress-free as possible. However, if you'll work on the things above it'll be better for everyone. -- K