Local veterinarians can be of great help to a dog Obedience training curriculum by providing information or guidance in establishing a dog health care program. The veterinarians benefit, too, by having some clients who can recognize early warning signals and provide essential information to aid in diagnosing. If there is an exchange of information in setting up such a program, there can be additional benefits to the training organization through referrals from a vet who understands the goals and methods of the training program and who has confidence in the people instructing. In addition, if the vet does not have the time and/or background to deal with canine behavior problems, he can advise the client to seek assistance from the training organization.
Incorporating discussions on health care into an Obedience training program is a logical step. Many of the people who own dogs have only vague concepts of the dog as a living organism, limited usually to knowing it needs shots and can have worms. No veterinarian and few breeders have the time to sit down with each new dog owner to impart this knowledge beyond simple nutritional requirements; the Obedience instructor, however, can reach those owners already assembled for instruction. There are several ways to add the health care aspect to a session of training classes. One way is to reserve 15 minutes or so each week to cover a particular topic. Another way is to add an extra lesson that would be devoted to the general topic of the dog’s health.
In our own classes we’ve found presenting a brief discussion on a different topic each week to work successfully. The lectures cover canine diseases, external parasites, internal parasites, nutrition, reproduction, behavior, grooming, and the correct way to take the dog’s temperature. The sole purpose is to have the owners become aware of various ailments affecting dogs and their early symptoms. No attempt is made to suggest that the owner undertakes treatment himself, rather the importance of veterinary attention is stressed. Preventative measures, particularly with regard to parasites, are outlined.
Initially a handout was drafted for each topic to be covered. These were compiled using several of the dog care books on the market. Each of the handouts was given to several veterinarians who checked them over for accuracy and saw to it that information on treatment and prevention conformed to local practices. At the present time a slide presentation and many of the pamphlets now available from some of the veterinary pharmaceutical houses are supplementing these handouts.
For those not inclined to compose, having a veterinarian speak to the class might be the better approach. Another possibility is to ask a vet about educational materials advertised by the major manufacturers and contacting them about distributing the literature in the classes. Most of the pamphlets that we have seen are excellent, but it is still suggested that the local vets review the material that is used.
Since many, probably even most, veterinarians do not actively participate in the sport of training and exhibiting dogs, it is likely that they have as foggy a notion of what goes on in training classes as their clients have about canine medicine. While asking the vet for his help, take the time to explain the class set-up, training philosophy, and the ways the organization promotes responsible dog ownership. Groups that offer KPT classes should make the vets aware of the benefits of early training. Many vets may themselves not be familiar with the work of Scott and Fuller, Pfaffenberger, Fox and Campbell much less realize the influence they have had on training concepts and approaches to problem behavior.
It will probably be easiest to begin working with one’s own veterinarian, but each vet in the community should eventually be contacted. If your area has an association of veterinarians, it might be easier to ask to be able to present a program at one of -its meetings. Try to avoid playing favorites and give each vet an opportunity to cooperate with your group in establishing well-rounded training programs.
A sound mind in a sound body is applicable to our dogs, too. Developing a working relationship between the training instructor and the veterinarian is a step in the right direction toward reaching and maintaining this goal.
©1972 W.H. Morrison, III