Preparing your dog for their spay or neuter is not just about booking their appointment and giving them big snuggles at the clinic door. There is so much more to it and we need to be prepared!
In this Quick Win, we'll talk about what that entails.
Conditioning the Cone of Shame
The Elizabethan Collar, the E-Collar (not to be mistaken for the electric collar or shock collar), or the Cone of Shame. Whatever you want to call it, it's a necessary evil for all dogs at some point so that we can prevent our dog from licking themselves or pulling out sutures.
There are a couple of different kinds - one being an inflatable cone, and the other being a plastic cone.
Most people will simply purchase the cone when the dog needs it, slap it on and call it a day. The dog is more often than not, quite traumatised by this sudden change and it doesn't have to be this way!
Like all the other tools that we have to use in a dog's life, we need to condition it first to reduce the fear response. Let's look at this video where I condition Salinger to his inflatable cone:
If a plastic or inflatable cone is too difficult for your dog, you can opt for a onesie that protects them from licking at their sutures, but it requires much more supervision. Consider the options and the level of supervision you're able to provide. Perhaps opt for a cone overnight.
Training to prepare for the recovery
There are a few training exercises that I might suggest training in advance just so that you can minimise issues after surgery:
- Anti-jumping exercises like:
- Relaxation-based behaviours like
- And last but not least, Polite Walking training so they're not over-exerting themselves on leash-walks in the weeks after surgery.
Preparing for "Rest"
Just like post-op humans, post-op dogs need rest and lower activity while they recover. Get ready for the days following the spay or neuter by doing the following:
- Prepare their meals in advance so that it's a no-brainer for you at mealtime. Stock up on some great stuffable food toys like these and get creative! You can do half and half - half in a food toy, half in a Kibble Bag!
- Donna Hill, a fabulous trainer in BC, offers a video on "crate rest activities". Whether you're crating, confining, or simply supervising in a puppy-proofed space, these exercises are fantastic for dogs who need to keep their brains busy while their body can't be.
- Block furniture and stairs (if you have a stair-runner) using gates, pens, or laundry baskets to prevent your dog from running/jumping. Consider putting down rugs or runners on slippery floors to prevent slips and slides.
- Remember - no off-leash running or rough-housing until they've recovered! If they're calm greeters with dogs and people on walks, no problem. If they are excitable, you may have to keep a distance and play "Look at That" instead. Restricting them can cause frustration so don't just tell them "no - we can't say hi right now" and move on...play this game and you'll be preventing leash-frustration from building!