One of the things I really love about Ohio State is the opportunity we have to learn about animal behavior and behavior modification. In addition to learning about it as we go through clinics, the staff and faculty emphasize low-stress handling and behavior modification to try to provide the best experience for our patients.
Behavior modification is something I enjoy doing and have been working on with my dogs. My dogs aren’t big fans of being brushed, so I have been sitting down every evening with them and feeding them pieces of hot dogs while I brush them. It’s amazing that when you associate something they don’t like with a yummy treat, how quickly an animal can warm up to the situation. My dogs now get excited when they see the brush come out to get groomed.
We do the same thing here at Ohio State for patients that don’t like blood draws or are afraid of the hospital. We have an awesome technician who does “happy visits” several days a week. These are nothing more than a visit to the hospital for a pet where they just wander around getting treats and practicing things they will go through when they have a regular appointment, like getting on a scale or table. We also make plans for animals that are really scared and need extensive work ups for things like hip replacements. If we can manage the dog with treats that is the first option, but some dogs are so uncomfortable that we make a plan to allow them to come in and get sedated in a low-stress manner so that they can get the X-rays, surgery, etc without being severely stressed. It is great to work with faculty and students who work to put the animal’s welfare first both mentally and physically.