In the Doghouse

Features - November 15th, 1974

by Dr. Herb Friedman

A very important thing that the young puppy should learn at an early time is how to behave while being groomed.

In case of Maltese, Poodles and Cockers which have to be groomed regular­ly—this is a most essential part of training. Even pup­pies that don’t have to be groomed but will require brushing as an adult should learn to behave properly when being worked on.

The puppy should be combed out at least weekly and more often if needed. If the petowner makes the initial grooming sessions pleasant for the pup and yet impresses on the animal the need to stay still and not move all over the table, it will carry over into adulthood and the grooming session will not be difficult for pet or owner.

Some dogs take to groom­ing and bathing easily and actually enjoy the attention lavished upon them at these times. Other animals resent being handled and will fight tooth and nail during the entire grooming sessions.

Therefore, with these ani­mals especially, it is essen­tial to be very patient and gentle but at the same time firm. DO NOT TOLERATE BITING OR SNAPPING.

If the pup expresses his displeasure in such a man­ner, it is fitting and proper for you to express your sentiments with a gentle smack on the rear end and a sharp tone of voice. Do not give up just because pup would rather go without this necessary grooming. Persist, and make the animal tole­rate the situation if he cannot enjoy it.

Many times, when puppy is first put up on the table, he thinks that this is play time and will try and turn the grooming session into a recreation period. Remem­ber that puppy does not know any better and be very patient.

Make him stand still while he is being brushed. Compliment him if his be­havior is good. After the grooming is ever, give him a treat and play with him. This will help him think of grooming as a pleasant time rather than a constant scolding session. It will make your job much easier also.

If you have a professional groomer doing these chores, either for the puppy or when he is an adult dog, YOU make sure that the groomer is gentle with the animal—otherwise all your training will be wasted. When the pup first visits the veterinarian at about six weeks of age, his first experience will usually determine his behavior there in the future. A good veterinarian will be gentle with the pup and try and make the examination and any injections as quick and painless as possible.

This should help ensure that the animal will not mind going to the veterinarians office and that his behavior there will be almost beyond reproach. As a side point, I might men­tion that the petowner should not be too embarras­sed if the animal has an accident in the veterina­rian’s office or waiting room. Veterinarians expect these things to happen and usually don’t get upset about them.

Don’t scold the dog too severely or he will associate the scolding with going to the veterinarians and not with going to the bathroom in the wrong place. Definitely, you should point to the accident and tell the pup how bad his conduct was and then take him out for a short walk to fully relieve himself.

If the puppy acts contrary while on the examination table, the good veterinarian will put the animal in his place. However, it is my opinion that the petowner should be there and should do whatever disciplining is necessary. If the pup sees the owner’s displeasure, he will usually cease and de­sist.

One big veterinary gripe is the petowner who lets his male dog lift a leg all over the waiting room. There is really no excuse for such bad manners either on the part of the dog or the owner. If the dog lifts his leg once, the owner should notice it and take the ani­mal out to get it out of his system.

Yet, I have seen some pets urinate over walls, floors and furniture with­out the owner even batting an eyelash. No petowner should tolerate this behavior from his dog and certainly, no veterinarian should tole­rate this from a petowner-client.

Most people bringing chil­dren to a veterinarian’s office with the family pet are very considerate about both the pet’s and the chil­dren’s behavior. Some people are not, however, and let their kids carry on like they were in the zoo instead of in a professional office. I think the veterinarian has every right to complain about undisciplined children disrupting his office.

One veterinarian that I knew quite well in Michigan, a middle-aged old-school Prussian-type, told a petowner, “Mrs. ———- , children should be seen and not heard but in your children’s case, perhaps it would be better if they were neither seen nor heard.”

This may seem tactless to a non-veterinarian but remember that the stethoscope loses its purpose and sensitivity when it has to compete against outside noises.