Originally, I wanted to write about how clever Butch is, how much fun it is to do training with him and just what a happy dog he is in general. Originally, I wanted to write about how he learned in a matter of days, to give me, his trainer more space instead of sitting on my feet while I’m trying to give him a cue. And that giving me more space, does not mean that he will lose out on his all time favorite thing…anything that resembles food. Butch would be happy to hear me telling everyone that he is a bit of a teacher’s pet and that he is always the first one to announce that the doggy hotel staff have arrived and greet everyone with a wiggly butt.
But today something happened, that made me change my mind about my original story. I arrived at his garden and he did not give me a wiggly butt. When I went inside and reached out to touch him he mouthed my hand. This is unlike every day Butch. I took my time trying to touch him, but he would not allow me, he avoided me and he mouthed me. This was a sore Butch, who did not want me to touch him because he was scared that it will hurt more. I noticed something small on the side of his hind quarters, but could not get close enough to examine it.
During the day, I went in with him four times, I touched him on his head with the back of my hand, on his chest, on his shoulders and then a very light and quick zig-zag touch on his hind quarters and before he could react I was back on his shoulders, and he would calm down again. This touch is called the Zebra touch, something to use when you are trying to see where the problem area lies.
When I went in for the fifth time he allowed me touch him again, and he was a lot less anxious about it. I was able to get close enough to see what is going on, and found the culprit, an evil bont tick attached to his skin, causing his bum to be really sore. This tick can cause a lot of discomfort and pain wherever it bites. Getting the tick off as soon as possible is really important because they are flesh eating ticks and where they bite, the skin dies and the wound will get bigger and bigger. I had to get the tick off by pouring dip over his hind quarters and immediately started treating the wound with hibitane.
Restraining him and forcing him into a position while he was sore so that I can get the ticks off, would have been quick, but he would have lost all his trust in me. I would have lost any opportunity with him to ever have to treat a cut or a wound or a tick again.
Low stress handling, is so important when we deal with animals. Whether they are our own or whether we are their caregivers. We do not need to force them to comply, simply because we can. By using empathy and patience and smart training, our relationships with our animals will go a long way.
And if you were wondering, Butch was wiggling again by the end of the day.
By Tersha, Trainer