How to Hog-Tie a Spaniel.
January 3, 2011 3:18 AM   Subscribe

How does one pin down a wiggly, frightened cocker spaniel for her own good?

I recently adopted a delightful two year old cocker spaniel named Molly from another family. She came with mild otitis externa in both ears and all the stuff to clean it out. The trouble is she goes absolutely insane when I try to go near her ears. I can't even lift them to see how bad it is, I trick her by rubbing her belly so she lies on her back and they fall open. She's not aggressive, I'm not worried about being bit (she does try a lot in a semi-serious way, but when she makes contact one would think she doesn't actually have teeth she's so soft about it.) Holding on to her is like holding a greased up banana with mittens. A banana that kicks like a mule. I've tried tying her to a doorknob so she couldn't get away, but she strains so hard I think she'll hurt herself and gives me such a wounded look I can't stand it. She's constantly scratching and today I noticed how alarmingly red they are. If I can't get this done properly in the next couple days I'll have to schedule a visit to the v-e-t just so they can do it for me.

The only thing that has worked is moist ear-cleaning cloths, if I start rubbing her face with them I can move towards her ears and wipe them out a bit, she goes all cock-eyed and starts kicking like Thumper, but I don't like this method since I'm pretty sure I'm just rubbing the crap around, and I can't get the ear-cleaning solution in that way.

Short of designing a puppy straight jacket, what can I do to get this unpleasant, but necessary job done?

Ps - sorry for the lack of picture, imagine the cutest velvet-faced Muppet you've ever seen, give it cow eyes and remove all signs of intelligence and that's Mol.
posted by Carlotta Bananas to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The move my vet showed me for dealing with my beagle is to hook a couple of fingers of the hand that's holding the ear open under the collar. So if I want to work at the right ear, I scratch my dog's back a bit with my left hand, then move my hand up and slide pinkie and ring fingers under the (rather loose) collar, with all fingers going over the top of the dog's skull and the thumb positioned, very conveniently, at the ear. I hook my thumb under the ear, flop it over, look, squirt in a bit of the appropriate solution, squish the ear around a bit between thumb and forefinger, then wipe it out with a paper towel. My dog doesn't like this, but with such a hold on his collar and skull he can't do much about it. It's also such a convenient position for me that the process is over very quickly, with minimal trauma.
posted by jon1270 at 3:56 AM on January 3, 2011

If you can get another person to assist you, get them to sort of straddle her (either standing or sitting with their legs gently squeezing her) hooking one hand under her collar and using the other hand to gentle hold her neck on the opposite side of the ear you are working on. Then you get in quickly to do the cleaning and drops. Basically, you want to immobilize her as much as possible without hurting her. My retriever has ongoing ear problems, and this used to be the only way I could get her ears properly cleaned and treated. It was what I had to do at the vet's as well (or what a vet tech would have to do while the vet took care of her ears). Sometimes the other person would brace her body by sitting in front of her and leaning into her on the couch. You may find that makes it harder for her to kick and squirm.

Over time, my dog got used to having her ears cleaned and drops administered, and while she still doesn't like it and will take off to the farthest corner of the house when I have to do it, she does sit still now when I need to work on her ears. A second person is rarely ever needed. I make a point of giving her a treat (even if it's just a couple pieces of kibble) after I clean her ears so she doesn't only associate it with Bad Things. This might be one of those situations where you need back-up for awhile until she gets used to the process and doesn't resist so much.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:45 AM on January 3, 2011

Throw a blanket over her, wrap her up like a burrito, then lay down on top of her.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:34 AM on January 3, 2011 [7 favorites]

Many dogs actually like having the near surface inside of their ear rubbed as a pat. I'd suggest removing the medication aspect of it and just casually giving her ears the occasional inside scratch when you're sitting next to her, i.e. no wrestling, in order to build up her tolerance.

Secondly when you do go to give her the (super stinky!) drops, make sure you're ready before she is, lid off the bottle, paper towels prepared and then do it in the most matter of fact and nonintrusive way you can. Dogs pick up on signals and making a big rigmarole out of something tends to make things worse. You need to catch her as far as possible unawares and do it quickly before she has a chance to react and mix the whole process with pats so that the ear bit is not the main event.

I look after a lot of dogs and this method is 99% successful even with really scaredy dogs.
posted by merocet at 5:50 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've used the burrito technique to get medicine into the mouth of an angry cat. It definitely works on cats.

I'd suggest an old towel instead of a blanket. Less problematic if it gets "dirty" and the terry cloth provides more friction, so it's less likely to come loose.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:51 AM on January 3, 2011

Get a friend with peanut butter on a spoon. Friend holds the spoon so your dog has to really try to get any peanut butter off of it. While your dog is distracted trying to get the peanut butter, you go for the ears as quick as possible. That's how we would get the evil scary scissors at my dog's belly hairs.
posted by cathoo at 6:49 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Squeeze cheese also works on the same principle as peanut butter.
posted by idb at 6:57 AM on January 3, 2011

Nthing burrito. And please post pictures of your burritoed greased banana Cocker Spaniel.
posted by supercres at 7:59 AM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Burrito method. Got a friend who runs a doggy daycare business who has a lady that comes in once a month to do teeth cleaning on dogs. Imagine an ear cleaning that can take 15 minutes. She uses the burrito method with a towel. She did it on my squirmy dog (who runs into his crate at the smell of ear cleaning fluid) and he was fine throughout the teeth cleaning.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:13 AM on January 3, 2011

oh and when doing something like the burrito method you might want to do a few dry runs beforehand where you wrap her up and then feed her something of high value (like peanut butter) so she associates the towel burrito with good things. Then do it once with the ear cleaning.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:15 AM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

It really makes a lot of sense to train her to have her ears cleaned. You should burrito now, because you need to get that gunk out. Everything merocet said still holds, and I'll add you want a BIG towel or blanket and you want to figure your dog is about 80% squirmier than you think she is.

After the major cleaning is done, you should work on being able to touch her ears and rub inside with wipes - and handle her paws and nails and look in her mouth and handle her tail (because a fuzzy docked tail and even the slightest ate-too-much-grass diarrhea can mean a really unpleasant clean-up job.)

I am leery of using food as a reward when a dog is excited – both with the burrito method and when you are working to make her calm and easy with being cared for. You really want her to reward herself by using self-control and being relaxed. Takes longer, but she’ll never need retraining.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:33 AM on January 3, 2011

We had this problem with our cocker spaniel and the answer ended up being putting her on top of the washing machine. The surprise of being in that unusual place let us give her medicine and haircuts. Seemed like the slick surface and height change threw her off enough that that she didn't struggle. Also feeding her cherios cereal helped for longer events like haircuts, as they could be doled out slowly as she started to get fed up with the situation.
posted by ridogi at 1:52 PM on January 3, 2011

ridogi - Thanks for the image of you putting your dog on top of the washing machine and feeding her cherios - made me laugh.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:35 PM on January 3, 2011

I've had success with our slippery cocker spaniel in times of extremis, thusly:

Stand over cocker's shoulders, both of you facing the same way. Holding cocker so he won't wander off, kneel so you've got his shoulders between your thighs; now he's pretty secure sideways and backwards. With one hand, hold around the muzzle so the head isn't moving and the cocker isn't going forward, either. You've got one hand free to use on the cocker. If you've got a friend, you've got three hands.

Our li'l guy is near-immune to sedatives and tranqs, and has had a number of minor head injuries, poor thing, so developing a way to deal with "you MUST permit this even though it hurts or is scary" was essential. He even got stitches near his eye once with this method.
posted by galadriel at 2:55 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, once extremis is over, he thinks carrots are The Best Thing Ever. Or really, anything crunchy and/or sweet, but particularly carrots. He'll eat cucumbers, squashes, oranges, watermelon, celery. He thinks the sound of me chopping vegetables is a summons for a treat. So it's really really easy to reward him for coping with whatever issue is at hand, which is great, since he's mostly a good dog--notwithstanding the tendency toward injury. I don't know if this is a Galahad thing or a typically cocker thing, but it certainly makes it possible to give him treats all day long without piling on the calories.
posted by galadriel at 2:59 PM on January 3, 2011

« Older Grief vs Sexuality   |   Where is Jostein Gardner's "Christmas Mystery"... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.