How Can Dog Trainers And Behavior Specialists Help Veterinary Pain Specialists?

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    Veterinary pain practitioners, trainers, and behavior specialists have the same goal: to help animals live better lives. Fear Free Certified trainers have vowed to employ methods that “protect and enhance the physical and mental welfare of animals.” This commitment involves, among other things, assisting animals in experiencing as little suffering as possible. Although trainers are not medical experts and cannot diagnose or prescribe medicines, we may nevertheless utilize our knowledge to assist pain practitioners in their work with animals.

    female dog trainer surrounding by a group of dogs

    We Are Spending More

    Dog training has always been seen as a luxury for pet owners over the years due to the expense that comes with it. And that wasn’t the only thing. It used to even be viewed that pain medication and pain management therapies for dogs were luxuries. But, due to the increase in the human-animal bond, more pet owners are putting more time and money into their pets, especially if it means relieving their pain. Quality of life has become a priority for many pet owners instead of just trying to keep them alive. More and more pet owners are ready to spend money on pain relievers and other complementary therapies to increase their dogs’ comfort and enjoyment of daily activities.

    The bewildering array of pet nutrition supplements and “remedies” that have popped up over the last decade (some with clinical proof and many others without) demonstrates that owners are prepared to spend more money than ever before in order to help their dogs and help them live a better life. But, in the end, not all pet owners can recognize clinical signs of pain in their dogs. Yes, they might know the more obvious signs and be quick to rush their pet to the vet if they are whimpering or limping but many pets in pain, especially chronic pain, do not show obvious signs. Due to survival instinct, dogs are likely to hide their pain or exhibit more subtle symptoms which get overlooked. Things such as dogs taking a while to stand after a nap and acting stiff are usually just seen as a dog being tired.

    Where Trainers and Behavior Specialists Come In


    Fear Free’s purpose, and that of its certified trainers is to prevent and reduce fear, anxiety, and stress. There is lots of evidence that pain generates fear, worry, and stress. Trainers alone will not be able to accomplish the objective of relieving an animal’s stress if it is caused by physical discomfort. They require the assistance of a veterinarian who is experienced in managing discomfort. Usually, trainers and behavior specialists are able to recognize the signs of pain in dogs and more acute to change in their behavior than standard dog owners such as noticing a slight change in the way they walk or stand. The sooner the pain is recognized, the sooner your dog can get the help they need.

    • Skilled behavior specialists and trainers are both proficient in putting into words how a dog is acting in such a way that indicates pain. For example, when the dog is walking strangely, they may be able to describe what they see as “He isn’t bear weight on his left hind leg and walking with an unsteady gait.” This is more helpful than just “my dog is walking different.” and allows a vet to know where to start. They can also recommend when a dog should be taken to a vet based on wha they observe. 
    • Trainers usually see their clients more often than a vet does as training is usually done on a more regular basis compared to annual exams. Therefore, they can easily recognize a change in the dog. They can typically notice when a dog is doing something they don’t usually do or vice versa. For example, the dog may be refusing to do a trick they usually have no problem doing. This could be a pain indicator.
    •  Dog owners often seek out the advice of their trainer when their dog is acting different to see what they think about ut. This can often be when a dog is suddenly doing something “naughty” or acting unlike themselves. They might be getting peeing on the rug or not letting you leash them up. What someone might think is just their dog being bad, a trainer can see that as an indicator that something is seriously wrong.
    • Once the veterinary team has begun a pain management treatment, trainers and behavior specialists can utilize their observation abilities to assist the client in monitoring the animal’s behavior for changes that may be beneficial to the veterinary team in evaluating if a certain therapy is effective. The trainers  are less vulnerable to any placebo effect because it is not their animal, and are more likely to detect an improvement (or deterioration) if they only visit the animal once a week rather than every day like the owner of the dog does.
    • If a dog has crate rest or other post-operative exercise restrictions, most trainers and behavior specialists have a plethora of terrific low-movement, low-energy enrichment options to offer clients. The trainers can assist keep pets happy and quiet while they recuperate, as well as keep them from becoming bored. They may also assist the dog owner in ensuring that the animal does not “overdo it.”
    male vet examining a german shepherd

    Trainers can assist pain practitioners in achieving the mutual goal of improving animals’ overall wellbeing by using our own observation skills, teaching mutual clients to become more keen observers of their pets’ behaviors, encouraging them to seek veterinary guidance sooner, and providing enrichment ideas. By reducing their pain, we also reduce their tension, which is at the core of Fear Free’s purpose!

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