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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Dog Suspension


These people are "powerful, friendly, cookie givers!"

Pet Professional Tip

When you the give a puppy a tasty food treat while passing around to team members you reward compliance and acceptance of positive handling. You also bond the pet to the family and to the veterinary practice. Puppies begin to generalize that all people are powerful and friendly. This entire process only takes a few seconds.

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What is suspension?

Suspension is a behavioral technique that is indicated for puppies from 6 to 14 weeks  old that can be used by every member of a family as well as the veterinary practice team, starting with the veterinary receptionist that helps the puppy recognize the person's leadership and, therefore, relax and go with the flow.

How does it work?

Pick up the puppy ("suspend it") the same way you would pick up a toddler with each hand around the chest under the front legs. Hold the puppy so that your eyes are slightly higher than the pup's eyes. Let the back legs dangle and look directly into the puppy's eyes. The pup should look away within a few seconds. Relax your grip, coo and in your best "talk to baby" voice say something like how cute he is or, in the veterinary setting, how lucky he is to have an owner caring enough to bring him to this practice. .

Then give the pup a brief hug, allow him to lick your cheek if you want, and cradle him upside down in your arm.  If possible, carefully hand the pup to a team member to do the same.  With permission, give a small, tasty dog cookie.  The entire process shouldn't take more than 10 seconds.

Suspension triggers the same compliant response as when the mother dog picks up the puppy to move him.  The natural response from the puppy is to relax and go limp.

Pet Professional Tip

Clients can see how much the staff really love pets. The team members get to hug a puppy, enjoy their work, and help train the puppy. The puppy had the most complicated and valuable experience:

By holding the pup this way we remove his ability to run, hide or bite. The pup instinctively recognized that from this situation that the person elevating him has taken charge. (Situational domination of the pup.)  This is reinforced by the eye contact. (Visually communicates the pup.)  A high, friendly voice tone decreases any threat. The hug physically controls the pup. Cradling the pup upside down creates a positional domination of the pup.

The temporary stress of suspension passes and the pup realized, "These
powerful people could have eaten me if they wanted, but since they didn't, they must be friendly. This technique significantly reduces the pup's fear, builds trust, and makes it easier for everyone in the family or practice to handle the dog from that day forward. 

How do pups show respect?

Puppies demonstrate respect and submission by licking the face of their seniors. If you "kiss" the pup, you are demonstrating submission, which MAY confuse the pup.  If the pup doesn't lick, don't worry. Some pups are more independent. These pups need the suspension experience the most. If the puppy panics, cries or struggles excessively, just put him down. These pups will benefit the MOST from a Pet Behavior History Analysis and a customized behavior modification program. There is no time like the present to make a lasting impact of the development of this pups personality.

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