Tough tasks can build trust

The pill you’re trying to give your outraged cat. The overdue hoof or nail trim. The drop-off at the boarding kennel.

The struggling, crying, kicking, flattened ears, and pleading eyes can leave us feeling incompetent. Or cruel.

My animal Reiki and animal communication practice is all about letting the animal choose, and of course that applies to the animals under my roof.

Yet there’s no escaping that some tasks aren’t optional.

“I’ve tried adding ‘because I said so’ to every command,” said Linda Lipp. “It works about as well on the dog as when my parents used it on me.”

Difficult tasks and events are opportunities to build our animals’ trust in us, our trust in the animals to learn and cope, and our trust in ourselves. From my experience and that of friends and clients, here are a few ways to do that.

Put your own leash on first

That’s a variation on the flight attendant’s instructions to put on your own oxygen mask before helping your child with theirs. Get any help you need to give injections, clean ears, handle hooves, etc. with confidence. If you are calm and clear, your animal is much more likely to be.

Allison Wheaton, director of Summit Equestrian Center, tends a crew of some 20 horses, many of them rescues; along with barn cats, her canine assistants, and more. “Honestly, it seems everyone does better when I am calm and deliberate while being sensitive to their needs,” she said.

I would add: leave enough time to trim the nails, get the cat into the carrier, get to the clinic, or whatever else with time to spare. If you are rushed, they will feel it.

Keep the good in mind

While you’re calm and unrushed, tell the animal what’s happening and what’s in it for them. You can speak out loud or silently. In either case, hold an image or feeling of what will be better once it’s done. Shorter nails mean less chance of painful snags and infections. The dog will feel cooler and more comfortable after being groomed. The cat will be able to urinate without pain, and everyone in the household will feel less anxious, if she swallows that pill. The horse can comfortably stand and move about with his herdmates if he cooperates with the farrier.

If you are about to travel, picture your dog having fun with the sitter who loves him, or at the boarding kennel you’ve carefully chosen. Show him a picture of how happy and relaxed you all will be when you’re together again. If your grandchildren are visiting, reassure your cat that you’ll provide her a safe space away from the kids and daily one-on-one time with you. (Then follow through.)

Treat ’em right

Positive reinforcement helps the animal associate good things with what we want him or her to do.

Demi Thomas has found it helpful to integrate new and potentially challenging tasks such as nail trims into the animal’s routine until it’s not a big deal. Then she immediately rewards with high-value treats, toys, and “favorite itchy-spot pets.”

For example, her dog Tucker didn’t like having his feet touched when he was a pup. “So, if he wanted on the couch, I played with his feet. He’s 3 now and it’s no issue!”

Rebecca and Jeff Cameron’s dog, Stella, is even less of a fan.

“Out of sheer desperation one day, I held a paper plate smeared with peanut butter in front of her while Jeff clipped nails,” Rebecca said. “I feel like we took the low road with straight-up bribery, but we’re working on actual training so she’ll allow the trimming sans PB distraction.” Stella will still get a tasty treat once it’s done, she added.

Think partnership

As with the Let Animals Lead® animal Reiki method I practice, things can go much better when the animal is allowed some agency.

Duke, a rescued draft horse at Summit Equestrian, lives with post-traumatic stress. Having his feet worked on or handled in any way is a potentially dangerous trigger. Allison has worked with him extensively on this.

“Duke is willing to let me wash his legs as long as I use minimal restraints, when he has more participation and things are not being done to him,” she said. “Otherwise he can get nervous and tries to get away or squish me.”

Squishing — not good. Building trust and confidence — excellent.

Watch for a follow-up to all of this. Because of my pro bono work and the generosity of Fear Free®, I am getting certified through the Fear Free Shelter Program. Fear Free educates veterinary professionals, trainers, groomers, and others in animal care methods that reduce fear, anxiety, and stress. In the meantime, here — from the Fear Free Happy Homes Program — is a four-minute video on nail trims.

(Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay)

Need a name? Ask the animal

Photo by DomnoDominik from Pixabay

Need a name for a new animal companion? Ask the animal.

Grab pen and paper, take a few minutes and sit with the animal as she rests or plays. When you are both relaxed, ask her what she wants to be called. You can ask out loud or silently.

Then write down everything that comes into your mind, however silly or random it seems. It may be one name or a number of possibilities.

Repeat the name(s) back to him and watch for ear twitches, eye blinks, head tilts, or other signs of recognition. Pay attention to any “yes” or “no” feelings that come up.

Chances are, you’ll have a clear winner. If not, try again later.

Letting your new friend tell you what she wants, in her own time, will get your life together off to a great start!

For more information, or to schedule an animal communication or animal Reiki session, visit me at www.njcrowe.com.

Pet ingestion question? There’s an app

veterinary-85925_1280 - Pixabay

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Wondering if it’s OK to give a particular food or medication to your cat? Maybe your dog got hold of a human medication, and your vet’s office is closed. A Google search yields contradictory answers.

Dr. Mari Delaney, a veterinarian of 25 years in Elmira, New York, has developed the Vet Protect app. It gives you a quick, expert answer on foods, medications, and things like borax ant traps. It also gives you a vet bill estimate on the toxic items. Users are invited to request items that are not on the list.

Dr. Delaney developed the app after treating a 10-year-old Rottweiler whose person mistakenly gave her Aleve. With aggressive treatment, the dog recovered, but it easily could have gone the other way.

I learned about the app while hearing Dr. Delaney interviewed on Dr. Bernadine Cruz’  The Pet Doctor podcast, and downloaded it myself. You just never know when you might need help in a hurry, and I liked Dr. Delaney’s approach and energy.

As a gardener, I wish the app included more plants … but that might be something to suggest. Vet Protect is available on iTunes and Google Play.