Cooperative Care: Giving Your Dog Choice and Control

My great Scottie/Corgi/Poodle-mix, Bonnie, had lengthy, fantastic, curly fur that tangled simply. She was comparatively tolerant of my frequent insistence on combing out the tangles, besides when it got here to her hindquarters. When I’d attempt to brush her there, she tensed up and typically even growled. 

Then she realized the Bucket Game, and on account of her studying a brand new technique to talk her emotions to me about being groomed – one which didn’t require the escalation of aggressive behaviors – her angle throughout grooming went from tolerance to finish leisure and pleasure. She was a basic research within the behavioral worth of giving our canine selection and management of their world by way of cooperative care. 

Cooperative care entails coaching an animal to not solely tolerate dealing with and husbandry procedures, but in addition to be an energetic, keen participant in these experiences.


There is an extended overdue and rising consciousness within the dog-care professions of the significance of partaking our canine companions’ cooperation and giving them some management over the assorted husbandry procedures we ask them to endure. For far too lengthy the angle within the canine world has been, “You have to do it because I said so.” 

Force-free canine coaching emerged as a motion greater than 20 years in the past and continues to develop in recognition and availability. Some segments of the canine world – groomers, shelter employees, and veterinary hospital employees – had been slower to embrace cooperative care, however that is now altering quickly. 

In 2016, “America’s veterinarian,” Marty Becker, DVM, launched Fear Free, an academic curriculum and certification program that teaches veterinary professionals to deal with and deal with their sufferers with out scaring them. 

Today, Fear Free affords academic alternatives and certification for canine trainers and groomers, with plans so as to add canine walkers, pet sitters, and extra within the close to future. The group additionally makes Fear Free data obtainable for free of charge to pet homeowners and shelter employees. 

In addition, the American Animal Hospital Association is nearing completion on a complete guide on cooperative take care of veterinary practices, deliberate for a late spring launch. And Deborah Jones, Ph.D., the writer of Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-Free Husbandry (2018), affords a web based Cooperative Care Certificate course.

All canine homeowners must carry out fundamental husbandry duties on their canine sooner or later – pull burrs out of the canine’s coat, study and clear a wound, administer eye drops, clear ears, brush enamel, and so forth. To achieve their canine’ keen participation in these duties, Jones recommends that, first, canine homeowners train their canine some fundamental behaviors for cooperative care – abilities that may ease your approach by way of virtually any dog-care procedures that homeowners are more likely to face. She teaches these important abilities in a selected order, so the canine learns them in a scientific and progressive approach. Jones’ “10 Essentials” for cooperative care are: 

1) Chin Rest (or Bucket Game) 

2) Lie on Side 

3) Restraint 

4) Wear a Muzzle 

5) Foot Handling 

6) Mouth Handling 

7) Taking Medication 

8) Injection or Blood Draw 

9) Eye Exam 

10) Ear Exam


There are quite a lot of protocols that may assist your canine be taught to take pleasure in these procedures. The Bucket Game is without doubt one of the most ingenious and versatile. The Bucket Game was developed and launched to the canine coaching world by coach Chirag Patel, proprietor of Domesticated Manners, a coaching enterprise in London. Once taught, the Bucket Game can be utilized for a number of of the 10 important behaviors, in addition to for on a regular basis husbandry procedures resembling grooming and nail filing.

This enjoyable and simple dog-training protocol empowers the learner, by creating an setting the place your canine has selection and might talk her willingness to take part. Using the Bucket Game, your canine can inform you:

• When she is able to begin

• When she must take a break

• When she needs to cease

• When it’s worthwhile to decelerate

All it’s worthwhile to play the Bucket Game is slightly bucket or another container to carry treats and a number of small, high-value treats. 


1. Start by holding the bucket out to your facet. Reward your canine (feed a deal with from the bucket) for trying on the bucket however sustaining a long way from it (two to 4 toes). 

Usually, as soon as your canine has seen you attain into the bucket, take out a yummy deal with, and feed it to her, she’ll take a look at the bucket once more, questioning what it’s all about. Be prepared! When you see her look at it, take a deal with out of it and provides her one. You’re in your approach. Repeat numerous occasions.

If your canine tries to leap up or dive into the bucket, don’t admonish her; simply maintain it greater. It shouldn’t take lengthy for her to comprehend that the easiest way to get extra treats is to maintain returning her gaze to the bucket with out attempting to leap up and assist herself to them.

2. Put the bucket on the bottom, a chair, or a desk, and reward the canine (feed a deal with from the bucket) for it however not attempting to get it. Your canine might be in any place; you might be merely rewarding her for trying on the bucket. Repeat a number of occasions.

3. Gradually start rising the period of her gaze, by rewarding her with treats from the bucket for it for longer and longer durations. Don’t wait too lengthy, rising the period an excessive amount of, too rapidly, as this will likely trigger the conduct to extinguish.

Remember, it is a sport of selection; your canine is allowed to go searching between specializing in the bucket. Don’t name her, faucet on the bucket, or do the rest to attract her consideration to it. Let your canine select to interact to take part.


1. Practice till your canine is ready to give attention to the bucket for a period of at the least 10 seconds. Remember that it doesn’t matter what place she’s in; it could possibly be a sit, down, or stand.

2. Choose what process you need to introduce to your canine as a part of the Bucket Game, resembling being groomed or trying in her ears. I’ll describe the steps as if we had been engaged on brushing the canine.

3. When she is concentrated on the bucket and in a position to maintain her focus for at the least 10 seconds, begin shifting your hand towards her facet (not touching her). If she continues to take a look at the bucket, cease shifting your hand towards her and feed her a deal with from the bucket. If she appears to be like away from the bucket, in all probability to take a look at your hand or face (“What are you doing?”), simply draw your hand again. 

Remember, it is a sport of selection. She could not but perceive that she will talk to you that she is uncomfortable – she could have simply been curious, however she is going to come to know as you proceed the method.

4. When she re-engages with the bucket, the sport begins once more. This time, don’t transfer your hand so quick or far. If she is ready to preserve give attention to the bucket, reward her with a deal with from the bucket.

Repeat this course of along with your hand shifting towards her, nearer and nearer, giving her a deal with sometimes so long as she continues to gaze on the bucket, and withdrawing your hand if she appears to be like away from the bucket. 

5. Eventually, you need to have the ability to contact her as she gazes on the bucket. The first time you make contact together with her, she is going to possible take a look at you. Just withdraw your hand, and check out once more after she gazes on the bucket once more. She ought to be beginning to determine that the one technique to get treats is to maintain gazing on the bucket, it doesn’t matter what you do along with your hand. Touch her with rising stress at numerous areas on her physique the place you’ll be grooming her, rewarding her sometimes. Again, don’t wait so lengthy that she begins to assume it’s not value taking part in the sport, however she ought to have the ability to maintain her gaze on the bucket for at the least 10 or 15 seconds whilst you contact her. 

6. Now decide up her brush and repeat Step 3, this time with the comb in your hand. After a number of repetitions with the comb held close to her, begin touching her with the comb. This continues till you’ll be able to groom your canine together with her trying on the bucket. 


When your canine has realized the sport for one process, you may simply generalize it to others, together with ear and mouth exams, foot dealing with, nail filing, and so forth. 

However, this sport of selection will solely work if you happen to permit your canine to speak that she needs to start, take a break, and cease the sport. If your canine appears to be like away from the bucket, cease the sport. When she re-engages with the bucket, the sport continues. It’s crucial that you just honor her request to cease and solely use the process when you’ll be able to honor her request to cease. 

If you utilize the Bucket Game whereas working with different animal-care professionals, additionally they should be keen to cease any process when your canine appears to be like away from the bucket. If they aren’t keen to take action, don’t use the Bucket Game with them. If they’re doing a process that can’t be stopped as soon as it has began, don’t use the Bucket Game with that process. 

Below, you’ll discover some hyperlinks for movies on YouTube of a coach educating her canine a few of these cooperative care workouts. Lauren Novack is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, and Family Paws Parent Educator who can also be licensed in Pet First Aid and CPR. She works as a Behavior Consultant at Behavior Vets in New York City. She can also be an MS Candidate in Applied Behavior Analysis at Hunter College.

In the movies, Novack might be seen coaching her mixed-breed canine Grayson to sit down or stand nonetheless for examinations, grooming, and administering vaccinations or different injections. He’s utterly unrestrained and performing these helpful conduct, as Novack says, like every other trick he’s been taught.

Novack is providing a three-part webinar collection on Applied Behavior Analysis for professionals in animal-care or -training fields. The collection begins on January 23. For extra details about completely different applied sciences for gathering data and creating plans that may alleviate animal struggling, click here.

“Chin rest” cooperative care/husbandry train being taught by conduct guide Lauren Novack

Behavior guide Lauren Novack educating a canine to “station” for cooperative husbandry duties.

Cooperative care: Behavior guide Lauren Novack provides a canine a needle poke with none restraint

Cooperative care at its most interesting: Behavior guide Lauren Novack’s canine Grayson receives a vaccine

Benchmarks In Cooperative Care Education

1996: Publication of The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson.

A refreshing new perspective on the connection between individuals and canine has redefined the state-of-the-art of dog-friendly canine coaching. Available wherever books are bought

2009: Publication of Low Stress Handling of Dogs and Cats by Sophia Yin, DVM. With greater than 1,600 images and three hours of video, this guide and companion DVD affords suggestions, instruments, and methods for recognizing brewing concern and aggression, whereas decreasing this by way of particular dealing with methods that lower stress and enhance affected person consolation and security. See

2016: Marty Becker, DVM, launches Fear Free. Their mission is to stop and alleviate concern, nervousness, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the individuals who take care of them. See

2018: Publication of Cooperative Care: Seven Steps to Stress-Free Husbandry by Deborah Jones, Ph.D. From the guide: “When we take the time to carefully observe our dog’s behavior, read their stress signals, and respect their communication with us, it’s just amazing how quickly we can replace suspicion with trust. Our goal is to empower our dogs and help them gain confidence in the husbandry process.” Available wherever books are bought 

2020: Cooperative Care Certificate course launched by Deborah Jones, Ph.D. One of the best possible issues you are able to do in your canine is to assist make the care obligatory for his well being and well-being as stress-free and acquainted as doable. This course offers a digital titling program that may allow you to set up and assess your canine’s readiness and luxury for grooming procedures and veterinary care. See

Past WDJ Articles About Cooperative Care

“Touch Me, Touch Me Not,” August 2004. What to do when your canine hates being touched: A program for making your canine safer to stay with and simpler to look at. 

“Safe and Not Sorry,” August 2009. Why and the way to situation your canine to comfortably and fortunately put on a muzzle.

“Positive Pedi-Pedi’s,” August 2012. Force-free nail-trimming methods:
Three different procedures to strive in your canine. 

“Touching Moments,” March 2014. How to correctly study your canine: Teach your canine to not simply settle for but in addition take pleasure in dealing with, examinations, and even restraint. 

  “Nuzzle Up To Muzzles,” February 2019. Why, when, and the way each canine ought to be taught to put on a muzzle.

  “Learning to Love It,” October 2020. A counter-conditioning protocol for nail filing.


Finding Caregivers Who Embrace Cooperative Care

It is critically necessary to your canine’s welfare and high quality of life that you just work with solely these dog-industry professionals who will comply with your needs regarding your canine’s care and dealing with in all interactions. It makes completely no sense to spend years constructing your canine’s belief in people after which flip him over to a veterinary technician who alpha-rolls him in an examination room or drags him right into a remedy room as he shrieks in concern. Getting choked into compliance by a groomer, shocked by a coach, yanked or struck by a dog-walker – any of those experiences could cause irreparable hurt to his belief of and curiosity in people.

It took a while to discover a veterinarian who understands and respects that my canine and cats don’t ever get taken to “the back” for routine procedures. I’m lucky and grateful: Even throughout this pandemic, my clinic permits one human to come back into the clinic with their animal companion. 

How do you discover professionals who perceive and comply with a cooperative care/fear-free/force-free philosophy? You can discover numerous lists or directories for locating such professionals, and we’ve listed a number of of those under. But it doesn’t matter what record or listing you utilize, after you have contacted a person, we advocate that you just scrutinize them additional. Interview them, ask for references, observe them at work to make sure that they follow what they preach, and be ready to step in and halt procedures at any time if you happen to don’t like what you see. 

Fear Free Pets: Veterinarians, trainers, groomers, and coming quickly – canine walkers and canine sitters.

Pet Professional Guild: All members are dedicated to force-free coaching and dealing with strategies.

Pat Miller Certified Trainers: These are trainers who’ve efficiently accomplished at the least three of Pat Miller’s academies and are dedicated to utilizing force-free coaching and dealing with strategies.

Academy for Dog Trainers: Jean Donaldson’s Academy exists to supply a complete, science-based curriculum on aversive-free pet canine coaching, conduct and conduct modification.

Victoria Stillwell Academy Certified Dog Trainer: This academy provides college students the information and ability to assemble a complete “trainer tool kit” in addition to the boldness to have the ability to clearly clarify to shoppers why constructive coaching is the one advisable philosophy when utilizing these numerous instruments.

Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners: The Karen Pryor Academy teaches college students to be expert trainers and efficient academics utilizing constructive reinforcement coaching.!directory/map

Other Organizations: While the next organizations comply with the “least intrusive, minimally aversive” (LIMA) precept, their members and/or certificants don’t essentially strictly adhere to that code – do your analysis!

Association of Professional Dog Trainers:

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers:

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants:


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