Cooperative care has become a hot buzz phrase in the dog training world. And that’s a really good thing! Many owners and trainers are coming to recognize the value of training our dogs to be active partners in their physical care processes. Throughout their lifetimes, our dogs will need to have grooming and veterinary care. If you’re very, very lucky your dog will be naturally cooperative without any effort on your part. For many dogs though, these procedures can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress. Our goal in training a cooperative approach is to give our dogs the emotional tools to handle necessary but possibly unpleasant procedures.
It’s very important for us to always remember, first and foremost, that when our dogs are resistant to procedures we are dealing with their automatic emotional responses. We need to address and decrease their feelings of fear and anxiety before we can expect to make progress. How can we do this? There are a variety of approaches that can be helpful. In particular, the use of consent signals is a good way to open up two way communication with your dog.
We can teach our dogs behaviors that can be used to indicate consent to continue or that withdraw consent. This approach requires us to put in some initial training effort, but then gives our dogs clear ways to tell us when they are feeling uncomfortable and need us to move back to an easier level of handling. By honoring their removal of consent we will build trust and increase the likelihood of future cooperation.
In this presentation Deb will present three consent signals (chin rest, lie on side with head down, and zen bowl) and demonstrate how to teach and use them in a variety of cooperative care applications. In addition, she will talk about what to do when care is not optional, but absolutely necessary with or without consent. How are these situations different and what should you do to avoid ruining all your consent based work? Finally, Deb will discuss her 10 essential cooperative care exercises and how they work together to develop a strong foundation that will help your dog cope well with a variety of possible future events.