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  • Deb Bauer

Teaching eye drops

Many dogs with vision impairments will at some point in their lives require daily eye drops or medications. Treasure gets eye drops daily to keep her comfortable and to keep her eyes moist. She has learned that they are part of her routine and accepts them with no complaints. If' you've been following this blog, you know that my work with Vinny to accept handling and grooming has been extensive. I've been very careful to teach him that he can be a part of the process of his care, which he started out not liking at all, and that he always has the option to say no and walk away.

Most dogs don't do well with humans holding them in place while forcibly doing things to their bodies. By giving Vinny the option to stay and cooperate with me or to leave, he controls the session and how we progress. This means that he remains within his comfort threshold. It also means that I don't get into "dog trainer mode" and try to push him too fast when we are making progress. It is truly a mutual decision whether to continue or not. I was amazed at how quickly the process of teaching Vinny about eye drops progressed. A total of 6 short teaching sessions and he allowed me to put drops into his eyes. It will take many repetitions and some back stepping in our process to make sure he can commit to a daily process. But that is OK. We all need to take steps backwards sometimes to practice the previous steps that we are fully comfortable with, as we begin to stretch our comfort zone to do new things that may not be as comfortable. Luckily Vinny is not in a position where he needs to have daily drops. I am simply teaching him this so that he is prepared should that day ever come. We are using natural tears drops, which are not medicated in any way, and were recommended by the veterinarian as being safe to use for my dogs' eyes. This means it is safe for me to teach and practice with Vinny, as the drops won't have any adverse effect. Here are the basic steps I used to teach Vinny to cooperate with getting eye drops. I have only shown you a snippet of each training session to show the behaviors in the order I taught them. This is definitely a lengthier process than is shown in the video, but it will give you some ideas and a place to start. If you are having trouble, find a positive reinforcement dog trainer in your area that is comfortable teaching husbandry behaviors to help get you started.

I also offer a self-study course about helping dogs learn to cooperate with the medical and husbandry (grooming, exams, handling) tasks of daily life. The course also covers how to adjust the teaching process for dogs that may be blind/deaf. You can find out more about the course here: Watch the video about teaching eye drops here:

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