It’s All Fun and Games ‘Til Someone Ends Up in a Cone

Bodhi conehead widerYou might think because of the title of this blog that it’s going to be about dogs who play too roughly and eventually get hurt. It’s not. (Sorry, I just liked the title!). But, it is about a dog having to wear a cone on his head, namely my dog Bodhi, and how our new daily routine has been made possible by the behavioral work we put in early on.

Bodhi had surgery last Friday to remove a lump from his head. It had started out small. In fact, when I first noticed it I thought it was a tick and tried to remove it. (Sorry, Bodhi!) Once I realized it was a growth, I kept my eye on it. I wasn’t panicked, as Bodhi is approximately nine-and-a-half years old and I’ve seen my share of lumps and bumps on older dogs. But when it began to grow, I took him to the vet to have a needle aspiration done. The vet wasn’t overly concerned, although she did say it was difficult to declare the lump benign based only on the cells she could see under the microscope. Fast forward a few months and the lump had become a LUMP. I decided enough was enough. Not only was I alarmed that it had grown so quickly and so much, but it was positioned above his eye, and I didn’t want to chance it eventually pressing down on his eye area.

As with all dogs who need to be kept from scratching or pawing at themselves and opening their incisions, Bodhi came home sporting an oh-so-fashionable white plastic cone. Yes, that cone—the Cone of Shame, the Cone of Silence…he was a Conehead now for sure, and you know how much dogs love a cone around the head. Unwieldy and annoying though it might be, it’s also necessary. So, like a good, responsible owner, I’m leaving it on except when Bodhi eats, or when we go for a walk. Even if I’m watching him at other times, it would take only a split-second for damage to be done, and Bodhi is exactly the kind of dog that would do it. When I mentioned to a friend that I was removing the cone and putting it back on multiple times each day, she expressed surprise that Bodhi was so good about letting me handle him that way. She went on to say she couldn’t imagine being able to do that with her own dogs.

Her remark got me thinking back to when we first adopted Bodhi. He was somewhere around a year to a year-and-a-half old, smack dab in the middle of his obnoxious teenage phase which, in concert with his myriad of behavior issues, made pretty much everything difficult. He had issues with other dogs. He was super destructive. He was leaking urine (not his fault, but so not charming). If my husband or I took a few steps, he would jump up and put his teeth all over us, not aggressively, but in what I recognized as a totally insecure, unsocialized, unmannerly way. (If you really want to know how bad it was and how I solved his issues, check out Hit by a Flying Wolf.) In addition to all of that, to say he did not like being handled would be an understatement. He not only didn’t like having his paws handled or rear touched, as is the case with many dogs, but he also hated being brushed. If I so much as touched the brush to his fur when he was lying down, he’d whip his head around, take my hand in his teeth, and look at me as if to say, “Don’t make me do something we’ll both regret.” While I understood that he’d probably had zero experience with people treating him gently and working with him, it was not okay to let him go through life that way. And so, we began the long, gradual process of working on his handling issues, along with all the others.

It’s now been just over eight years since we bought Bodhi home and, hopefully, he’ll be with us for years to come (we’re waiting on the pathology of that pesky lump). Had I not put in all of the time and effort with him at the beginning, I am confident that he would not be easy to cone or de-cone, to brush, or to live with at all, really. The fact is, dogs come with baggage just like people do. We can take offense and try to strong-arm them into compliance, which only suppresses the underlying reason for the behavior and doesn’t solve it; we can give up on them entirely; or, we can work with them kindly and patiently to make things better. As this challenging period, along with a myriad of other interactions in our day-to-day life proves, in the end, being gentle, patient, and willing to work cooperatively over time always pays off.
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11 Responses to It’s All Fun and Games ‘Til Someone Ends Up in a Cone

  1. sarah shepherd says:

    I wish I could add a picture. My collies had to wear ‘cones’ after injuries from a dog attack. One of them was blind in one eye and I knew he would not tolerate a cone. My vet had some soft blue flowered cones that look life a life preserver with a hole in the center for the head. This worked really well for both my dogs and was much easier for them to walk around in. I took a photo and through they looked pitiful, they were also very cute, in the eyes of their owner.
    One of those dogs is RIP, and my new rescue has issues with his rear end being ‘moved.’ I think he was kicked-he reacts to feet being too close to him. I can lift his back (& front) paws to wipe them off & I can brush his rear. But he reacts aggressively if you physically try to move him in the rear. We continue to work on that and cutting nails.

    • wildewmn says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about your collies being attacked. I am glad they were able to wear the softer cones (unfortunately those wouldn’t work for Bodhi’s incision). Glad you’re working with your new rescue on handling issues. Slow and steady can be frustrating and feel like it takes forever, but it’s the only way to go.

  2. C.E.Robinson says:

    Our dog Sammy was a bundle of behavior problems when we got him at 4 1/2 years old. He was in a pet store cage for that long. Too big for a Shih Tzu, wild and (play?) biting everyone. We saw him, and visited with him. He ran around the little cubicle, nipped at us until Robert picked him up. The dog imprinted immediately, sat still and gave him a sloppy kiss. We worked with him, and almost gave up a few time, but…he’s 11 years old today, and a professionally trained service dog for Robert, a Vietnam vet! He accepts hands on treatment and trusts us, the vet and his groomer! He is leery of strangers, barks to alert us of perceived danger, someone at the door, or walking by. Yep, he’s a guard dog! Hate to think he might have been “put down” if we hadn’t found him. Building trust and behavior training musts with him and any dog! Christine

    • wildewmn says:

      That’s awesome, Christine, and how cool that he ended up being a service dog your your Vietnam vet husband as well. Good point that he might have been put down had you not worked with him. Bodhi too would have ended up euthanized, I am sure, when people would not have wanted to deal with his myriad of behavior issues. Tummyrubs to your Sammy!

  3. When Maggie had her mammary strip three years ago, we were given a cone, but didn’t use it. She is with us 24/7, and we simply covered her wound with a towel, and she left it alone.
    She was really very good about it so we took it back and were refunded.

  4. My poor husky boy has had to wear the cone off and on this summer due to environmental allergies manifesting as hotspots etc. Like you, very early training with the cone for such things as his neutering, really helped. I also came up with a trick this summer. I connect the snap at the other big part of the cone and leave it like that when taking on and off so that I only have to snap the two nearest the neck. Saves time when trying to get to work! Especially with a very fast, energetic dog 😉

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Nannette! Bodhi’s cone is the old fashioned kind, no snaps. But I realized that if I swapped his collar and Sierra’s (hers is smaller and has a snap-together closure) I could weave hers through the loops and it’s easy on and off. I hear you on those fast, energetic northern breeds!

  5. juliabarrett says:

    It will be better soon, Bodhi!

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