Over two years ago I visited Bess, a black labrador. At the time she had been cut open twice to remove stones she had swallowed, and was unlikely to survive a third operation. Her owners were understandably in a panic. Bess would eat stones, sticks – anything.
Fortunately all that is now a thing of the past. I was called back for fairly minor issues due to her reactivity to certain dogs on walks. It was evident a lot of our early work had been allowed to slide, but I’m sure they will soon be back on track. Once a dog is on my list, I continue offer support any time in the future.
When I brought Pickle my Cocker Spaniel puppy home he was fascinated in the stones that cover much of the ground around my house. I couldn’t avoid them. I remembered Badger and decided to use psychology right from the start. As soon as he picked up a stone, I walked away from him. He would drop it to follow me. If he lay down and chewed the stone, I left him to it, reasoning that I had never heard of a wild dog or wolf dying from eating stones. They would surely have more sense. Moreover, if Pickle thought that I wanted his stone, then he might well swallow it. Finders Keepers! I contemplated exchanging stones for a treats, but exchanging something for a treat means that the object should be kept out of reach in the future – obviously impossible with stones. (N.B. my technique with Pickle is not appropriate for dogs that already swallow things and where counter-conditioning work needs to be done).
Occasionally even now at 9 months old Pickle will pick up and chew a stone, but I don’t worry. He has never swallowed one, so my gamble paid off.
Once a dog has the habit of swallowing stones, it is too late to use the strategies I used with Pickle. Other ways will need to be found – which will possibly save the dog’s life.
I took this picture of Kobi today, a wonderful Rottie age 8 months who lives at my local pub. He reminds me of my dear departed Rottweiler, Merlin. Just like Merlin, he is confident, reliable and friendly.