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Introduction to Cooperative Care

Ok, it sounds nice, but what is it?

Cooperative care is a SUPER cool way of having your dog (or other animals!) participate actively in handling or husbandry activities. Some dogs have a hard time with things like vaccinations, nail trims, grooming, etc. So cooperative care gives us a way to help them feel more comfortable and help us get the job done. So what are some examples?

We sometimes use a "start button" behavior like a chin rest. We teach the dog to rest their chin on our lap (or on a table or other object), and that means "ok, go ahead and start touching my paws (or other tasks)." If the dog pops their head up at any point, we stop- that lets us know they were uncomfortable, and we respect that signal! When they're ready to start back up again, they'll chin rest- so we know we can start again.

We can also teach our dogs to position themselves in ways that help us with care and husbandry. We can teach dogs to stand still or lift their paw for us to trim nails or draw blood. In one example in the webinar below, a dog learned to hold his head way upwards to allow a vet to draw blood from the vein in his neck! Fun fact: cooperative care is often used in zoos with animals like tigers or elephants. Zoo staff will train these animals to lean up on a fence and position themselves so staff can draw blood, check their teeth, or perform other exams!

Want to learn more about cooperative care and how to help your dog succeed at the vet, groomer, or for basic handling? Check out this awesome webinar from Heather Clever, CPDT-KA of Train My Dogs Austin.


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