Desensitizing Boogie to the Ear Wash bottle (Part 1)

December 3, 2010 at 9:22 am 1 comment

Boogie absolutely hates having his ears cleaned. Whenever he sees me with the ear wash bottle in my hand (or even a neosporin tube or anything that looks like “medication”), he runs off to hide underneath the coffee table or in his crate.

This is Dr. Reina’s ear cleaning procedure: I have to put 3-4 drops of that super stinky ear wash liquid in each ear, massage his ears, wait for Boogie to do a big shake-off, then wipe the insides of each ear with a cotton ball.  I feel like such a horrible person doing this to Boogie who cowers and cringes. When he shakes off, I have to grab him quickly before he escapes, and while I am wiping out his ears,  lowers his head all the way down to the ground like he is trying to slide away.

Sarah shared with me a story about clicker-trained zoo animals who will, on cue, confidently walk up to the cage bars and offer their necks or legs to have their blood drawn. (Link: Youtube video of a hyena offering his leg)

There is hope for Boogie. I can do this. I have to desensitize him to my instruments of torture….

My first mistake was to expect too much too soon. I held the bottle in my hand and gave Boogie treats for coming near me. Then I held out the bottle in front of Boogie’s nose with treats in my other hand. Boogie took one sniff of the bottle and backed right off. “Uh oh. I know what that shit is.”

He sat down several feet away. He didn’t want the treat.

I consulted Sarah.

“Start with the scary bottle but put it down somewhere. Holding it up in your hand will look too much like you are going to give him a treatment. Put the bottle down on the floor and then you stand near Boogie. Click him for any bravery, but then toss the treat away from the bottle so he gets two rewards: relief from the scary thing and the treat. Do this a bunch of times until he will go right up to the bottle and touch it without any sign of cringing away.
Work in very short sessions. Use MIND BLOWING treats….treats you only use when doing the bottle work. When he’s really confident going up to the bottle on his own, then try sitting near the bottle and see if he’ll still come over to it.

Then try putting your hand on it. Then lifting it up…Very tiny baby steps—if you want to do desensitization correctly.

SESSION 1about 5 minutes, hot dog treats (his favorite)
I put the bottle on the floor, stood next to it, and clicked and treated Boogie for looking at the bottle.
Then for stepping closer to the bottle.
Then I clicked and treated only when his nose was 1-2 inches away from the bottle.
Boogie did great! 🙂 After he collected his treat he returned to stick his nose above the bottle for the next click and treat… He did this about 6 times.
Then I put the bottle away and gave him a big bunch of treats. Yay, Boogie!

Tomorrow, I will crouch down next to the bottle,  then touch the bottle, pick up the bottle etc…

Tomorrow we also have a vet visit  and I already know what Dr. Reina is going to say: “When was the last time you cleaned his ears?”


UPDATE – SESSION #3 – Youtube video.

Boogie is now approaching the bottle on his own and sniffs it while it’s in my hand.

Entry filed under: Training.

Trying out a new food: K9 NATURAL Happy Birthday Boogie!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. RUGPISSER  |  December 21, 2010 at 2:53 am

    What a smart cookie! Love the video, very helpful. I will try that with my dogs, thank you for sharing! 🙂


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