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The Inventor of Spray Cheese is My Hero.

Today I splurged and bought myself a veterinary house call.  It was time for Boogie’s annual exam and we’ve been searching for a new vet, so I figured that since we’re switching vets anyway, why not upgrade to an in-house visit?

Last year’s vet visit was a disaster (see: 2011 stink-a-thon) and we figured a visit at home would not only help Boogie feel more relaxed, but it would nice for us too: we have 5 pets and I’m tired of airing out my car for three months after my cats explode in their crates from car sickness. Dude, have you ever tried to get cat pee smell out of a car’s upholstery? Years. It takes years.

The vet was just here this afternoon, so I figured I’d give you guys an update, for anyone following the saga of the wee Boogie.

We didn’t take this vet visit lightly. Prior to today, we’ve been practicing different restraints and approaches to see what’s most comfortable for Boogie and trying to counter condition him to some stuff, like blood draws. Many fearful dogs prefer a blood draw from their rear leg, because it’s scary having people up front, near their heads, but after a lot of counter conditioning (per Sophis Yin’s great resource), Boogie wasn’t getting any more comfortable with it. So we knew we needed to practice restraints for a front leg and maybe a jug draw.

Earlier today, as the clock ticked closer to lift off, I gave Boogie a wheelbarrow of calming treats and exercised him for an hour right before they arrived.

Ok, so picture this: the vet pulls into the driveway.  We started off out in the yard. Boogie was freaked out when the vet and the vet tech (Hi Denise!) arrived. This is something we used to deal with a lot, but in the last year, thanks to lots of practice, he’s started to enjoy meeting new people in the yard. So it was a bummer that it was a rocky start. I’ll chalk it up to being in a new house, since we just moved in a couple of weeks ago and these were our first visitors. 

To let him cool off, we let him hang out with his ball and focused on our other dog, Birdie, for a few minutes.  Birdie loves meeting new people and wanted to show the vet the new cyst she grew on her head. She was really proud of it.

Then we went inside and put Boogie’s basket muzzle on. Boogie needed vaccinations, a blood draw, and a lump inside his ear examined. While he was lying on his bed, getting fed a steady stream of Easy Cheese by me, the vet looked in his ear and gave him one shot, then I picked him up (he was too nervous to leave his bed, but we had to get him on all fours) and placed him between my legs. I loosely restrained him and gave him some distracting-noogies on his forehead while the vet gave him another vaccination in his hip.  Lastly, we restrained him for a front leg (!) blood draw. I rubbed his forehead a lot, feed him more cheese, and told him he was a champ. 


Did I ever tell you, you’re my hero?


Did Boogie growl during the exam? You bet.

Did he struggle or try to get away? Nope.

Did he eat half a can of cheese? Oh yeah. I heard the nozzle sputter and cursed myself for not having a spare can of cheese on hand (rookie mistake). Luckily I had a Lickety Stick handy. Mental Note: don’t cheap out on the spray cheese next time. Buy a case.

After the examination, we took Boogie’s muzzle off and he approached the vet and vet tech with a wagging tail. Not a bad way to end the visit.

Wanna know one of the very best parts? Start to finish, I think they were here for 15 minutes. Normally, going to the vet takes 2 hours (packing them up, driving them there, waiting in the car, the exam, and return trip. Plus post-car vomit, poop, and pee detail.  And then a stress-induced coma nap.

So the fact that I’m writing this to you all right now, while my husband picks up some Thai food, is a victory in and of itself.

But back to Boogie. I really appreciated that, rather than scold Boogie for growling, the vet just kept examining Boogie while I fed him treats. Hopefully, that approach will begin to change Boogie’s emotional response to being handled by a vet. One of these days, Boogie will need more vet care than just an annual exam, and I’m hoping we can start making it a more positive experience for him.

What was the most helpful thing we did in preparation for the visit?  Hands down it was teaching Boogie to love his muzzle.

All the other stuff helped a wee bit, but the most helpful counter conditioning that we did, prior to this visit, was teaching Boogie that his muzzle is the best thing ever. We started by letting him use it as a giant ice treat (aka the Kuzzle), then had him wear it for very short periods, and then eventually for longer lengths of time and during pretend exams, all while being hosed by Easy Cheese.  We’re talking many, many weeks of cleaning cheese out of his muzzle. It wasn’t overnight.

So the end report: Home visits are super great. Get one. It’s like going to spa, only there’s a stool sample involved. And this new vet is welcome back any time. Most of all – muzzles are really handy. Teach your dog that it rains cheese or peanut butter or liver when they wear one.

Oh, and now for the really good news: tomorrow we leave for a  family vacation with the dogs. Boogie earned it and we can’t wait to take him swimming. Here he is on last year’s summer vacation:

See you all in a week!


    You Rock, Boogie!

    August 24, 2012
  2. Way to go Boogie!!! Great first visit!!!

    August 24, 2012
  3. Teri #

    I have the same affection for spray cheese! I also love food tubes (tubes used by hikers…great for liverwurst, peanut butter etc). A must for anyone wanting to work on behavior modification. So happy to hear that Boogie had a good visit with the vet. Love his sassy life vest!

    August 25, 2012
  4. What! You can draw blood from the back leg? Why didn’t i know about this?
    And it’s so much further away from the fangs. Seems it would be safer. Why don’t all vets to the back instead of the front?

    And I know what you mean about having plenty of treats on hand. Puddin is on a fish diet right now. (working on her allergies – she eats home prepared). I ran out of fish and fed her some goat while we waited at the vet. Now she is extra itchy. Next time I’ll just prepare for her to get her entire days ration of food at the vet.

    Thanks for the story. Congrats!

    August 25, 2012
  5. Perfect timing to talk about muzzles! i just ordered one for my boyfriends JRT after a horrendous trip to the vet and an unsuccessful nail trip at the local pet store. I was figuring on using PB and maybe a lickity stick, but maybe the allure of spray cheese, which he has never had to my knowledge, will be just the ticket. That and hiding it cuz the kids think it would be fun to put the muzzle on Buddy…they have no idea how UN fun this would be on a first attempt, so I vow to win him over…wish me luck!

    August 25, 2012
  6. Spray cheese tamed my feral puppy Clara. I’m not kidding. She was 10 weeks old and growling and uncatchable. I couldn’t lure her with baby food. But she came in my house when she heard one of the dogs barking inside. She kept her distance from me until I happened to give the crated dog some spray cheese. She crept over, I let her suck on it, and she was my dog forever more.

    It’s really nice to read your account of all the classical conditioning. We do a lot of it too. It is wonderful to see the dog’s emotional response change. Congrats to you and Boogie!

    August 26, 2012
  7. Karen #

    Hi, there, I’m a new subscriber to your blog – love it! – I’m glad that Boogie had a good visit with the vet. I would just add a word of caution in response here re the spray-cheese .. be careful with the “fat-full” goodies like cheese and other people foods… my dog, never having had a problem previously all her life and always fed a healthy diet, almost died from a pancreatitis attack because a friend gave her a single blob of peanut butter to lick. Pancreatitis can be triggered by table snacks or fatty meal… unfortunately ever since that first time my dog is prone to the attacks so I have to keep her on a stringent low fat diet – no more usual goodies, chewies or treats like she used to get. We went through 3 more pancreatitis attacks until I found the right dog food and feeding plan to keep her on. She can eat only a few things now without getting sick; – her lowfat dog food and 1 brand/type of treat bisquits (7% or less fat content), or plain boiled rice and chicken when she’s not well. She hasn’t had an attack since I finally figured out the plan that works for her but, boy, it took a lot of research.

    August 26, 2012
  8. K #

    Wow. Can’t believe my previous comment was removed. It wasn’t nasty or abusive or offensive. I was only posting a caution about giving fat-filled people food to dogs as my dog suffered near-fatal circumstances of pancreatitis as a result. Will all dogs get sick from small amounts of people food? obviously not. but a near half can of spray cheese? possibly. depends on the animal. In any case, I would think DOG LOVERS would like to be informed about keeping their dogs safe and healthy so I’m surprised my comment was removed. way to go there.

    August 26, 2012
    • Hi Karen, your comment is there now. I was away all week on vacation (just like my blog post mentioned), so I wasn’t able to approve comments until I got home today. All is well and your advice is appreciated!

      September 2, 2012
  9. I often say that my dog Sunny self-medicates with this stuff. He’ll ask to suck it down during high stress situations. I also have squirted it all over my car seats (with covers) to keep dogs occupied who are afraid of car rides. Sometimes the can can spit and scare some dogs, I offer it on my finger if I’m concerned this might happen.

    I probably should have bought stock in the stuff given how many cases I’ve gone through over the years.

    August 28, 2012
  10. I’m blessed that neither of my dogs are afraid of the vet, but I do love the home visits. I sure with my vet did them! LOL It sounds like you did a great job getting Boogie ready, I’m it was much less stressful for everyone involved.

    August 28, 2012
  11. Good Job Boogie! Tell your Mom the best thing she can do is to find a vet with a good bedside manner. 🙂 Took us almost 3 years and a dozen vet trips to find one that Miss Shy Scared Sunshine liked. She even sniffed the vet on the face at our first visit. At that point I needed to pick myself up off the ground… Of course there hasn’t been a repeat but it did happen once!

    A good vet will not be offended when you request something to be changed. I’m not sure how I would react if a vet was correcting my dog while I was there to make that decision call. It probably wouldn’t end well. I have made plenty of vet mistakes in the past and will not repeat them. I wouldn’t even let the ER vet take Sunshine away to go get Xrays. I promised her I would never let anyone take her in the back alone again (took 3 grown people to get her back there at the first vet) They let me pick her up and put her on the Xray table and even called me back in to arrange her into the second position. Even though two stranger vet techs had her wrapped up into a pretzel position they say she instantly relaxed as soon as I came back into the room.

    We go to the vet still since our goal is to do as many scary things as possible for both dogs. It’s good for them to get out and test themselves. For that last vet trip 😦 I think I plan to pay the extra money for a home visit.

    September 7, 2012

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