Corneliuz had an appointment on Friday with Dr. Kevin Stepaniuk, the veterinary dentist at Columbia River Veterinary Specialists. He has a chipped upper premolar, and has a bit of discoloration on his lower canine teeth at the site of previous dental work (which I learned is normal and likely nothing to be concerned about, whew!), but has accumulated a significant amount of tartar/calculus and will be having a dental cleaning within the near future.
Now, as you know, Corneliuz has significant dog-dog reactivity and more than his fair share of impulse control issues, which makes the act of heading into a busy veterinary clinic potentially a really stressful experience for everyone involved! We’ve been working extensively on relaxation since he joined the household, and recently introduced “matwork” to his training plan as a way to create a mobile, conditioned relaxation spot that can be used to bring his arousal level down and provide a “home base” for settling even in an otherwise stimulating environment.
We have practiced the matwork exercises in many locations around our home, but hadn’t yet had an opportunity to “take it on the road” to see how well he would generalize what he had learned. This was more than a little leap in our training plan, but I figured we’d treat it like a “probe trial” and see how well it would work for him.
HE. WAS. AMAZING! Thankfully there weren’t any other dogs in the lobby when we entered, so we had a chance to sniff around a bit, practice a round or two of “find it” in that space, and then he hopped onto his mat and settled as soon as it was placed on the floor. After a few rounds of settling and release, we moved into the consult room and practiced the same routine. He was settled within minutes, was released from the mat to greet and interact with Dr. Stepaniuk and the rest of his team, and then settled back on the mat with the benefit of intermittent reinforcement while Dr. Stepaniuk discussed the plan for the upcoming dental procedure. We even had the opportunity to practice the exercise in one of the other hallways of the practice before we left so that when he has to go back in for his procedure, it won’t be quite as dramatic an experience.
If you are already a client at the Animal Behavior Clinic, you may be familiar with techniques such as this one, and we’d love to hear how you’ve used “matwork” or the “find it” exercise in your adventures! If you’re not familiar and want to learn more, we’d love to see you for a consult and get you set up with one of our team members to show you how this can work for you and your dog!
~ Dr. Pachel