Sooner or later, most Livestock Guardian Dogs need to be given a pill or drenched with a syringe into their mouth. It could be for de-worming, antibiotics, or any number of reasons. Some dogs are easy to administer medications to. Just wrap the pill in a strip of bacon, cheese, liver or hamburger, and they practically take your hand off gobbling it down. Others however, seem to possesses a sixth sense and just know that there is something "evil" lurking inside that hunk of cheese in your hand, and they skeedaddle as soon as you come around the corner!
In my pack of 14 LGDs here I have a spectrum of "types": those who are easy to put anything into their mouths, and those who are a bit more of a challenge. Here is how I successfully manage to administer pills or liquid via a syringe into my dogs.
First of all, let's look at the dynamic going on here. You need to get your dog to swallow something he may not be too crazy about (especially if he's accidentally chomped down on a sour tasting pill before - yuck!)!
How's the best way to approach him and get this done with as little stress, struggle, drama or excitement as possible? How can you turn this potentially negative experience into a less stressful, and comfortable one, so that the next time around might be easier? After all, most LGDs weigh a good 100 pounds or twice that - and tussling with one is not high on anyone's list!
Here's how I have been doing it successfully for years, and maybe it will work for you, too.
- If it's pills, I will coat or wrap the pills in a gob of butter, bacon grease, hamburger, liver or peanut butter - what ever that particular dog happens to be fond of.
- I never approach the dog head on. I move casually and relaxed, and approach the dog from it's side. This is always a less threatening manner to approach a dog, by turning your side to it and going to it's side, not face to face or directly to his front. This relaxes the dog more, and lets him know he is not being challenged or forced into something that could be fearful for him. By taking away that fear, by encouraging calm and trust, the dog will in turn trust you more, be more relaxed and manageable.
- I ask the dog to sit for me - most of mine will do this with minimum encouragement - or if the dog is an "easy to dose" dog, allow him/her to stand at my side. A way to get a large dog to sit for you is to place your right hand on it's collar. Take your left hand and place just below his buttocks deep into his haunches. While you ask him to "sit", pull his collar towards his rear slowly, while pressing in on his haunches. Just about every dog I have here - including my giant ones - will respond to this, and sit for you. Give plenty of praise and gentle strokes on his ears.
- I stand next to the dog, not in front of him, on his right side, so he is on my left.
- This whole time I am talking in a calm, low voice and praising the dog. You want this to be remembered as a good experience, not a bad one, so next time it is even easier.
- With my left hand I stroke his ears, rub them a bit and stroke his muzzle.
- I place my left hand's forefinger in the left corner of his mouth and with slight pressure ask the dog to open by pushing my finger in further.
- When the dog opens his mouth, I bring my right hand around with the coated pills, and as quickly as possible, lay the pills at the back of his tongue.
- I close his mouth and all the while telling him what a good dog he's been, gently stroke under his chin with my right hand while my left hand keeps his jaw closed. You don't want it shut so tight he can't swallow. The stroking will encourage the swallowing reflex.
- Once you've heard your dog "gulp", release his muzzle. He will lick his lips. This is the sign you've succeeded, and your dog's taken his medication!
- To reinforce that this was a "fun" experience, I often treat the dog with another bite of liver or cheese or a raw chicken thigh or leg. Do this enough times, and the dog will associate the brief sitting and swallowing with a pleasurable, non-painful or threatening experience.
- Administering liquid wormer or medication via a syringe can be more difficult but using the above technique can still be done in a manner that is not so stressful for the dog. After years of experimenting I have found the best syringe for this is one that is used for sheep and goats, not the thick plastic disposable type of syringe. The disposable plastic type syringes seem to get stuck or wear out too fast, for me. Premier Supplies carries a very affordable syringe that can be completely dismantled and put back together again to facilitate sterilizing and cleaning. Valley Vet's drenching syringe is my personal favorite as it holds 20 cc's, and is easily dismantled for cleaning, and lasts with care for years. I have one that is 30 cc's and it works wonderfully on larger (200 + pound) LGDs who take a higher dose. The longer, bent syringe makes it easier for me to get it down to the back of the dog's mouth, and the molded finger/thumb grip gives me a steady hold on it.