Creating Kinder, Gentler Experiences for Pets


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“Mom, Dad, please bring me back here. This place has friendly, powerful cookie givers!”

- Gentling Exercises -

Suspension  |  Indications for Suspension

The Secret of Suspension

What Is “Suspension”?

This behavioral technique is indicated for puppies in the 6 -14 week range, and can be used by every member of the team, starting the greeter.

With the pet parent's permission, pick up the puppy “suspend” it the same way you would pick up a toddler. With each hand around the chest, and under each front leg, let the back legs dangle, and look directly into the puppy’s eyes. (He should look away.) Sway him and “coo,” saying something like how cute he is and how lucky he is to have an owner that cares enough to bring him here. Suspension triggers the same response as when mom picked him up to move him as a pup and he went limp.

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 6 seconds.

What Just Happened?

1) The pet parent saw how much we really love pets and how warm and caring we are.
2) The team member got to hug a puppy, enjoy their work, and help train the puppy.
3) The puppy had the most complicated and valuable experience:

By suspending the pup this way, we removed his ability to run, hide or bite. The pup instinctively recognized that from this situation, the person suspending him had taken charge. (Situationally control d the pup.) This was reinforced by the eye contact. (Visually control d the pup.) A high, friendly voice tone decreased any threat. The hug physically control d the pup. Cradling the pup upside down (positionally control d the pup.)

All this temporary stress passed, and the pup subconsciously realized something like; “They were powerful, and could have killed 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 practice to handle the dog from that day forward. Even more important, the dog experienced clear non-threatening leadership. This teaches the pup they are not the pack leader of the world, and decreases the tendency for aggression later in life, especially if combined with regular human handling. (Touch every inch of the body daily.)

NOTE: Puppies demonstrate submission by licking the face of their senior. If you “kiss” the pup, you are demonstrating submission to the pup which confuses it. If the pup doesn’t lick, don’t worry. Some pups are more independent, and those need this type of experience the most. If the puppy panics, cries or struggles excessively, just put it down, or give it back to the owner. Then recommend a behavior consult. The owner should suspend the puppy then do gentle handling daily during the first year of life.

By being passed from one person to the other, the pup generalizes that all beings in this “cave” are powerful and friendly. Since dogs love and respect “pack leaders” more than peers, the veterinary employees have earned immediate leader status. The final step is to give the puppy a tasty dog cookie to reward it for accepting positive handling. This entire process bonds the pet and owner to the practice, and helps make the puppy non-aggressive and easy to handle.

...::::::: Copyright 2000-2009 Rolan Tripp, DVM :::::::...