With Our Resident Animal Behaviourist 

Teach your pet companion to love being handled

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The process of classical conditioning- it’s science, how animals learn!

What is it?

Classical conditioning is a type of associative learning. We want handling and touch to predict tasty treats and over time the touch alone produces a positive emotional response for your pet companion.

  1. Prepare an assortment of tasty treat options (meaty treats, tiny pieces of liver biltong etc for dogs; cats you can use kitty tuna, sardines or cat treats).
  2. Find a quiet space, a room or place your pet feels comfortable and at ease.
  3. Ensure the surface underneath their paws is not slippery, you can use a yoga mat or carpet if needs be.
  4. Go slow! The point of the training exercise is to teach your pet that gentle handling is fun, comfortable, that they are safe and it is predictable, fun session.
  5. Watch their body language and respect their decision to move away if they want to

Timing is important. Start gradually with a gentle, short (1 second) touch to their side, then give them the treat. (Remember- touch then treat).

Important!
  1. Don’t start with the area they are most uncomfortable, rather start with the part of their body that causes the least amount of stress. For example, gently touch their back, then treat. Over time gradually work up to the part of their body that may be a little more concerning for them (for example gently touching their paws).
  2. If your pet companion is displaying any stress, STOP immediately! Go back to something they enjoyed and end the session on a positive note.
Also important!

Always consult with a veterinarian or veterinary behaviourist if you have concerns regarding your pet being in discomfort, pain or if they are showing concerning behaviours regarding being touched or handled.

Never force an animal or flood them by making them face their fears- you will always make the situation worse!

The process of classical conditioning can be applied to all aspects of your pet companion’s life.

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