Low Stress Handling - Minimizing Animal Stress

by Lee Chambers

Sam with Pinto, a Dakin dog.

Low stress handling is a technique Dakin staff and volunteers use to handle animals who require medical or behavioral examinations.  The goal is to read the animal’s body language and put them at ease as much as possible while preventing bites, scratches or other injuries.  We asked Sam Renaud, an animal behavior assistant, how this works:

Q:  What are some of the techniques you have used on dogs, cats and small animals?

S:  Depending on the dog’s size, I have used a large blanket to pick them up. This gives me control of them without them whipping around to bite.  If a cat in a carrier is stressed, we will try to take the carrier apart and leave them in that space rather than forcing them out. I handle small animals with towels to make sure I don’t pull on feathers or tails.  It also keeps them from biting me.

Q:  How you use your hands and your body positioning affects the outcome.  What about other factors?

S:  The right tone of voice and avoiding quick movements are important. We use cheery voices and keep it low, because loud talking can make them feel there’s potential danger they have to get away from.

Q: Why are some animals fearful/stressed when being handled?

S:  Lack of handling during their socialization window can be a factor. That’s the time from birth to about 8-12 weeks of age. Lack of exposure to different stimuli can trigger a fear of the unknown. They could have also developed a fear because of an isolated instance; whatever had happened caused a traumatic response from them and now they fear that it could happen again.






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