You Want Me to Wear That!?
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Have you ever tried putting something on your, pet only to have it go....not so well? For example, you put a harness on your cat, and suddenly she's paralyzed? You fit that fancy new head halter to your dog and they claw nonstop like they're covered with a swarm of angry bees? I'm talking about things like sweaters, #anxietywraps, #muzzles, #Elizabethancollars, and so on. Just take a spin over to #Youtube for videos galore of dogs not-so-much walking in booties or cats being "chased" by their own hats. Many people find these videos hilarious. I, however, do not. Don't get me wrong. I am not a wet blanket! I will laugh until I cry at humans falling on ice, or the countless fools trying to pull some ill fated stunt. BUT I only like the ones where people do it to themselves.
The difference between someone trampolining into the side of a house and the cat pictured here is that the human had a choice and actively participated. They were not forced, without permission, despite multiple requests to stop. When it comes to putting things on pets, humans tend to force it without giving the pet a say in the matter. Yes, sometimes the pet ends up being find. In some cases, they adjust and go on to wear sweaters on the reg. In other cases, unfortunately, such anxiety or stress increase and trust and relationships become damaged. Pets quickly learn that subtle, quiet communications don't work, such as tensed bodies, avoidance, attempts to move away. The result? Many pets skip the subtle requests and escalate straight to fight or flight.
How you handle your pet is entirely up to you - it's your #CHOICE ! But I strongly encourage you to allow your pet to also have a choice.
Tips for helping your pet adjust to wearing something new.
1. The pet decides what is scary. It's just boots, come on! To us, maybe, but to dogs it may be 4 alligators eating their feet off. Fear is up to the fearful. If you tell me to get over it and just deal with the spider on my arm, I'm not going to believe you - or like you. Fear isn't a conscious decision - it is a deep rooted instinct.
3. Go at the pet's pace. While it may be more frustrating and time consuming, going at a speed your pet is ok with ensures enjoyment that can last forever, rather than the alternative.
4. Pair scary with awesome. If you drag me over to that spider, I may punch you in the throat. But if you coax me with $100 and cake, I may just come along. Remember to always stay in their comfort zone. If you repeatedly present favorite things in terrifying situations, the favorite thing can easily become what is known as a #poisonedcue. You may wind up with a cat who is afraid of it's canned food.
5. Work with a pro. If you've tried a few times and things aren't going well, contact a professional. If you contact someone early, they might be able to get your dog in #doggles in a session or two. If you pin your dog down and force them on, you're looking at several sessions to undo that damage, fix the relationship, and also introduce the doggles.
If you'd like to learn more about equipment, such as fitting or choosing training tools, check out my upcoming webinar through Raising Canine: Gearing Up: Selecting, Fitting, and Using Dog Equipment. You can also learn more by taking a look at my #raisingcanine event blog.