Brian’s got an ear infection (might have something to do with looking out of the car’s window on our last trip). We’ve got some cream with clotrimazole, gentamicin and betamethasane so it should be sorted soon. But it made me realise how important it is to prepare him for his ears being cleaned and inspected at the vets.
It’s been ages since I had a puppy. My rescues tend to be older and they often have deep rooted fear of being groomed or going to the vet. I’ve taken Brian to the vet a few times, with no other purpose but to make him comfortable there. He got some fuss and a toy every time. Being scared of people he might never be an easy patient, but at least he doesn’t associate the place with anything unpleasant.
I still do all the basic grooming myself, I brush his teeth, trim his claws, comb his coat, clean his ears and eyes (he is prone to infections) -the vet can still only touch Brian’s body (not the paws, nowhere near his head). But I know how important it is to make sure he trusts the vet. Taking Ardbeg to the vet was the most traumatic experience I can think of. It got better when we found the vet we use now – all the staff are unbelievably patient and considerate, we waited in a separate room, had as much time as we needed, they encourage people to pop in with their pets to say ‘hello’ and make the pets feel comfortable there.
Even though I’d recommend a professional groomer especially for hard to brush, long or tangled coats or claws clipping, the level of stress in fearful dogs makes it impossible to be groomed by anyone but the owner (and even then, it’s not an easy task at first). It’s a good idea to ask a groomer for some help if you decide to do it yourself. Take some lessons and if you’re absolutely confident you want to try, ask your groomer/teacher to assess your abilities.
Lily’s groomed professionally now, but just to illustrate why I had to learn some basic things: to trim Ardbeg’s claws I needed first to convince him the clippers were not a vicious witch’s tool of choice for torturing dogs. So, with the clippers in my hand I sat nearer and nearer every day for three months.Praise and cuddle every time. Then clippers could touch his paw (a month). Praise and cuddle every time again. When, after about 6 months I clipped one of his claws I celebrated as if I’d just given birth to a baby. It got better, but it was never easy. But then, Ardbeg’s abuse history included kicking him and crushing his paw (one of his digital pads was badly damaged).
I have taught Brian that claws trimming is a normal thing rewarded by a lot of attention from me. He didn’t mind so much when I cleaned his ears, but now, with the infection, he’s not entirely happy I touch the bad one. So, there’s room for improvement, I’m going to touch his ears daily with cotton wool and reward him for being calm. I’m blessed with a dog I can shape and form, with few bad memories. Time and patience is all we need, there’s love in abundance so we should be fine.