Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Socialization isn't just for social butterflies

I took Summit for his second blood donation yesterday and it reminded me of the importance of socialization. When I say socialization I don't just mean people and dogs, I also mean environments.

I had taught Summit the roll because it would be helpful for blood donations and other medical procedures where he has to be flat on his side. Unfortunately he shuts down at the clinic during these medical procedures because they're so strange and different. Which means he won't respond to commands. This is about more than the fact that dogs don't generalize. He doesn't refuse his commands because he doesn't understand that "down" at the clinic means the same thing as "down" at home. He does know that. We've worked on these basic commands in many different places, and we have worked on them in the clinic when we're just standing around or when I would bring him to class with me. The key here is that he doesn't want to take treats. It's the famous greyhound statue.

We made some good progress yesterday, however. We had to sit in the blood collection room for about 20 minutes while we waited for the emla cream to work. The emla cream, for those not familiar with it, is a local anesthetic used to numb the area of the neck over the jugular vein where the giant blood collection needle will be introduced. So while we waited I fed him choice treats (he would only take his very favourites) and praised him heavily for just eating a treat. Eventually he began to feel more comfortable and would take most of his treats as well as respond to simple commands like "watch me". I also gave treats any time he offered a behaviour on his own (looking at me or laying down on his blanket and relaxing), and at all times gave lavish, enthusiastic praise. By the end he would even sit for me and was wagging his tail. I did manage to slowly, manually roll him onto his side, but we weren't quite there with rolling on his own so we didn't push it.

Summit's "concerned" look.
The blood collection itself went really well. It was very quick and smooth. But the whole experience made me think about how valuable it is to expose your dog to as many different places, sounds, people, and situations as possible so that they can be relaxed, unconcerned, and happy wherever they go. We're not quite there with Summit obviously, but I do my best to take him anywhere that dogs are allowed to go.

1 comment:

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I work really hard to make sure my guys have good experiences at the vet and they are all very willing to eat at the vet. Its great to be able to give big treats while they are getting needle pokes.