Cooperative care for companion dogs: emotional health and wellness

Traditionally, humans treated their companion dogs with absolute authority. Furthermore, much of human behaviour towards dogs is cloaked in myths and driven by human-centric labels such as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘stubborn’ or ‘friendly’ to describe behaviours, emotions, traits or personalities. This has meant that companion dogs have little, if any, autonomy or choice in what happens to them, and this can be traumatic and emotionally damaging. However, providing dogs with the opportunity to make choices when and where it is safe and appropriate to do so may improve their optimism and is part of a clear two-way system of communication between humans and dogs. This translates to reduced stress and enhanced positive welfare that includes their emotional wellness. Cooperative care is a training protocol that provides some measure of predictability and clarity. It removes ambiguity and thus reduces stress from handling. Because it allows the animal to choose to participate or not, it builds trust and grants for some degree of bodily autonomy. The practical applications have additional effects on overall wellness and also reduce the chances of aggressive behaviours that may lead to human injury and veterinary care can be improved, with benefits to the dog, staff and clients.

Erin Jones -