The Good, the Bad, and the Puggly

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Understanding the many facets of the animal/human bond is a huge part of the job for Veterinary Hospital Assistants. This week’s Pet Psychology class with special guest lecturer Brad Pattison and instructor Kari Lesick focused on helping students better understand just how important our furry friends can be to our health and happiness, and vice versa, as changes in our lives can have huge ripple effects on our pets’ health. If you are a pet owner, or someone looking to get into the Animal Health field, there are some great insights below! Read on!

The Good

Companionship. Affection. Joy. Respect.  Learning. Healthy Activity. There are countless beneficial aspects of pet ownership. Kari, a renowned expert in animal behavior and psychology (along with BodyTalk and other alternative wellness streams), spoke about the incredible ability of animals to help people recover faster from illnesses. Brad and Kari discussed the many beneficial ways in which dogs can help make people be more social and spend more time outdoors engaging in healthy activity.

Students learned that dogs are extremely sensitive to body language and display this through countless behaviors – including mirroring the emotions or energy levels they sense in the humans around them. Kari warned about some of the potential negative consequences of this sensitivity for an animal, noting that people will often turn to their dogs as coping devices, and that we must take care to remember that the effects on them can be significant. “Your dog is a like a Sherpa carrying all your emotional baggage,” said Kari. “You need to respect the fact that they have needs too and make sure that you are giving them the space and time they need to just be a dog.”

The Bad

Students also learned about the need for constant awareness in the clinic, as Brad guided them through some of the not-so -nice situations they may encounter, including animal aggression. “If you don’t take control of a situation,” said Brad, “you escalate the situation. Today is about learning how to keep yourself safe at all times.” Brad went on to share case studies of dog aggression and some of the consequences that result for both dogs and humans when dogs are mistreated, mishandled, and not cared for properly.

The students took in sobering examples and photos. The purpose was clear—awareness, as Brad repeats over and over, is key. Knowing the basic skills of how to assess and approach an animal will empower the students in new and unexpected situations. Key indicators like tension in the neck, tail position, “tone of voice” were all discussed. Did you know that if a dog’s neck is compressed they may be feeling threatened or aggressive, while if their neck is long, they are more likely to be relaxed?

And then the Puggly…

Okay, so this was a bit of a trick – there weren’t any cute little pugs romping in today’s class (just wanted to make sure you kept reading!!!)…but the lecture still ended on a lighter note with the students learning a few tricks of the trade for putting their best foot (paw?) forward in a clinic. Brad and Kari passed on to students important professional development strategies for establishing themselves and building a strong network in the animal health industry. They were tasked with building a rolodex of contacts including behaviorists, trainers, and nutrition specialists. Having a solid referral relationship with other professionals is a great way for the students to boost their profile as a front-line professional in animal health.

Next class will be dedicated to learning about feline friends, from the importance of early socialization in kittens to common behavioral problems and behavioral modification techniques for adult cats. Check back early next week for updates from this class – you might learn something or you might just get to look at pictures of kittens. (It’s a win win!)

The Veterinary Hospital Assistant Certificate from Centre for Arts and Technology Kelowna is a comprehensive career focused program that will prepare you for work in the animal care industry in just 36 weeks. Want to know more? Drop us a line or stop by the campus any time to speak with a program advisor! We’d love to hear from you!

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