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Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats
Cattle Dog Publishing, 470 pp., 2009; $148.95 DVD included

In the veterinary profession, there’s a refreshing interest in learning about behavior—a subject that has long been overlooked in the vet-school curriculum. Many dog owners have been given inappropriate behavioral advice by their veterinarians, and many dogs have been subjected to manhandling by veterinary clinic staff, from receptionists to vet techs to the veterinarians themselves. Countless dogs have developed behavior problems as a result, and existing problems have been exacerbated by this inappropriate handling. Dog-behavior professionals worldwide have bemoaned this state of affairs as they’ve worked to repair damage done by vet-prescribed alpha rolls or other old-fashioned dominance-based handling and advice.

Thankfully, this is changing. In January 2010, the North American Veterinary Conference, host to more than 14,000 veterinarians from around the world, included a two-and-a-half day behavioral track for the first time ever. It was well attended and well received by veterinarians eager to learn.

In the forefront of this exciting trend is Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinary behaviorist dedicated to helping members of her profession learn more appropriate and humane handling techniques. Yin’s latest offering, Low Stress Handling, is packed to the gills with excellent practical advice for veterinarians and crammed with marvelous color photos (1,600 of them) that clearly illustrate her points. If that wasn’t enough, the package includes a DVD with three and- a-half hours of live footage to support her text and photos. Wow! The book is divided into five sections, addressing early behavior problem recognition; the science of behavior and learning; modifying the clinic environment to reduce stress for canine and feline clients; humane and effective handling and restraint techniques; and problem behavior prevention and reversal.

“Wait!” you may say, “I’m not a veterinarian!” That matters not—you can still find incredibly useful information in this book, information that will help turn your next veterinary visit into an enjoyable outing rather than a stress-laden horror show.

For example, in chapter 18, “Counterconditioning Protocols for Dogs and Cats,” Yin discusses how to condition a dog to love a muzzle and enjoy having her teeth brushed and ears cleaned, as well as a multitude of other handling procedures. Chapter 19, “Preventive Behavioral Health for Puppies,” offers useful puppy-raising information on topics such as grooming, nail trimming and early socialization.

The book will also arm you with information to help you determine whether your vet and her staff are handling your dog appropriately, and will empower you to be a critical thinker about any training and handling advice your veterinarian offers. In fact, you can double the impact of this valuable resource by sharing it with your veterinarian after you’ve fully absorbed its contents.

I do have one concern about the Low Stress package. A good training and behavior program avoids eliciting or reinforcing inappropriate behavior; hence, it can be a challenge to get video appropriate for educational purposes. In her mission to document her points with relevant video, Yin, in my opinion, exposes some of her canine subjects to undue stress; I understand the trade-off and appreciate the educational value, yet still flinch at some of the footage, especially that of dogs in a panic over head halters.

That concern aside, this package is a priceless resource for serious dog lovers and their dogs’ (and cats’) veterinary professionals. My own veterinarian is well versed in the scientific principles of behavior and learning and consistently handles her four-footed clients humanely and effectively. I plan to share my copy with my local animal shelter, whose staff is faced daily with the challenge of handling difficult animals.

To preview (or order) this book, go to nerdbook.com.

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 59: Apr/May 2010
Pat Miller, CPDT, CDBC, APDT, has been training dogs for more than 35 years; she is also a writer and the founder of Peaceable Paws. peaceablepaws.com

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