Dealing With A Cone Head In The House

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Dealing With A Cone Head In The House

Dealing With A Cone Head in the House

If your dog has ever been injured or had surgery, you most likely know what an Elizabethan collar, or a cone, is and how frustrating it can be for both you and your dog. An e-collar ensures that your dog cannot lick, chew, scratch or rub his face and many vets recommend this type of gear after an abdominal surgery, neutering, limb injury, or face injury to prevent further damage to an area that needs to heal. While this completely makes sense to any owner, the reality is that an e-collar is a huge pain to deal with and there are a few things you can do to help both yourself and your dog.

Any dog wearing an e-collar is likely to bump into everything. All of the sudden, their ability to move through space has changed drastically. The worst is probably when they run into you with the large plastic cone. A hard plastic e-collar is the most common type, though there are soft and inflatable options that may work for some pets. Keep in mind that your pet is equally frustrated not being able to get to you easily. Your dog is also likely on a restricted exercise schedule, bored, and potentially medicated depending on his injury. Here is where you can get creative: teach your pooch some new tricks and get some new toys to make this time a little more fun and bearable for both of you.

If your dog is unable to run and play as usual, mental stimulation is key to keeping him engaged and providing needed distraction from his healing. Teaching your dog to back up on command is a great way to keep him from bumping into you or doorways while allowing you to reward your dog for doing something fun rather than have to constantly redirect them. The easiest way to teach your dog to back up is to take a step toward him from directly in front. If you see a back leg move back or if he takes a step back, you can praise and reward. After a few repetitions you can add a cue before taking the step into his space. The most common cues for this behavior are “back” and “beep-beep,” like the reversing sound of a truck. Over a few quick sessions you can expand this behavior to be a few steps back and have your dog easily walking backwards. You can also use this time to build up duration for any stationary command your dog might know, like “stay” or “go to place,” so that your dog is working and thinking but not moving too much.

Another way to keep your dog stimulated without too much movement is to use puzzle toys (see previous post) for meals and low-activity interactions. You may be medicating your dog as well so this is a good time to get your pet used to taking pills or having drops put in his eyes. This can be a game for your dog too if you use a toy or treat with each administration. Massage and full body inspections are another good way to interact with your dog calmly instead of playing fetch or tug which may not be allowed during his treatment. Most dogs quickly adapt to eating, drinking and sleeping with their e-collar on, so try not to take it off for any reason unless you get the OK from your vet.

If you have other pets, you may need to keep them separated when not directly supervised to ensure your dog heals properly without over stimulation or accidental injury. You could try taking your other pets to dog daycare, hiring a pet sitter, or putting up temporary baby gates. Don’t forget your healthy companion needs stimulation too and may miss playing with his friend. This is a great time to stock up on your pet’s favorite chew toys and teach him fun new tricks, essentially turning what could be a very frustrating experience into a fun one.

Happy Training!
Tamar Paltin
Head Trainer- Perfect Pooch
BA, CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator