Posts Tagged ‘giving pills to dogs’

Tooey has settled right back in to the routine. And a big part of her routine involves being on the grooming table.

Cooper and Tooey on the grooming table

Months ago, Tooey observed that Cooper got “treats” when he’s up on the grooming table. Actually, they’re pills, not treats, at least to Cooper. He doesn’t like salmon oil, so I have been stuffing salmon oil capsules down his throat. After which, of course, he does get some kind of treat or other.

Tooey, on the other hand, has a broad definition of food*. Almost everything edible can be defined as a treat. She loves the salmon oil capsules, chewing them down with great gusto. So when Cooper is done getting his pills, Tooey hops up to get hers, too.

What’s funny is that Tooey now spends quite a lot of time up on the grooming table. We have a small house, so the table is in the kitchen. From that platform, she can keep her eye on all the doings around the house (especially Russ’s cooking!), escape from Cooper when needed, and offer her paw for a “high 5” to earn yet another treat.

* Thanks to Christine for this phrase. She used it to describe one of her pups, and it sounded just right to me.

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The vet tech stuck her head through the waiting room door where we were waiting for Cooper. “Next time,” she said, “would you please warn us that he’s going to jump onto the table?”

The story

Turns out that when she took Cooper into the exam room, he immediately leapt up onto the exam table. He didn’t notice (or care, perhaps) that the vet had just placed her tray full of records and instruments onto that same table. The clatter, the vet tech explained, what all that stuff flying onto the floor.

We tried to nod soberly. But as soon as the tech left, we both broke into smiles. Instead of trying to escape the exam room, Cooper had happily jumped up onto the exam table in a scary place, with strange people.

This all happened yesterday afternoon. Later in the evening, we realized that we had trained Cooper to do this — without realizing that training is what we had been doing. That means it is possible to train what Colleen at the Academy of Canine Behavior described as a “tough” dog to train.

How we think we did it

Cooper’s been getting various supplements and medications by mouth, and we discovered that it’s easier to give those on the grooming table. At the same time, he needs a little food to help him swallow the pills. Might as well be small pieces of his favorite beef roll.

So, we started by lifting him up on the table, giving him his pills, and then giving him the beef treat. After awhile, we started just asking him to get onto the table by saying “table” and/or patting the table, and he’d do it.

grooming table

Then, when he saw us getting out the pills, he would jump onto the table without being asked. Now, after a couple of months, all it takes is for him to hear us rattling the pill bottles.

The power of association — pills/table/beef treat — ain’t it great?

No reason to stop now

I’ve made it a bit harder recently — now, after he’s on the table and has gotten his pills, and before he gets his treat, I ask him for various small behaviors, like sit, stand, “five” (shake with right paw-right hand), and “ten” (shake with left paw-left hand).

Perhaps soon I’m going to have to train a command to not jump up on the grooming table so the vet tech isn’t surprised. But training on purpose is way harder than training unawares.

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