To protect a healing surgical incision or wound from your pup's prying paws and tongue, he'll have to wear an Elizabethan collar, commonly called a cone. Unfortunately, your pooch may view that cone as more of a hindrance than a help without praise and encouragement to become comfortable wearing it.
For your pup to be as comfortable as he can be wearing a clumsy hard plastic cone on his head, measure his neck and head to properly size it. If that cone is too tight or too loose, he'll be very unhappy in it and it might even irritate his skin or come off of his head. Most veterinary offices have cones in stock, so consult with your vet about sizing in case you aren't quite sure which one works best for your pup, especially if he's between sizes. Have your pooch try on the collar in the office so that you know it fits prior to purchase.
When you slip that hard, satellite dish-like cone over your pup's head, he'll likely become upset by the feeling of it on his neck and how it impairs his vision and movement. If possible, prepare your pooch for wearing the collar prior to a scheduled surgery. Introduce it to him slowly, praising him and rewarding him with treats each time he inspects it and eventually wears the collar for short periods of time. Eventually he'll associate that "cone of shame" with yummy treats and positive attention. Use these same techniques even if you have no prep time to let your pooch know that wearing the cone is a good thing, not a punishment.
The Elizabethan collar can seriously impair your pooch's movements and you can expect that he'll be bumping into furniture and your legs on a regular basis. Move your furniture around to accommodate the size of the cone. Elevate your pup's food dishes to make it easier for him to reach his food. Groom your pup's face for him so that he feels clean, and if possible, completely bathe and groom him before his surgery. Try not to remove the collar during the entire time he needs to wear it, especially if your pooch is struggling to get out of it; this will only negatively reinforce such behavior, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. This means also walking your pooch with the collar on, not off.
For the duration that your pup has to wear his cone collar, supervise him outdoors so that he doesn't get hurt and trip or fall due to his lack of visibility and impaired mobility. You also don't want to sneak up on your pup when his vision and movements are impaired. Make some noise before approaching him and come into his field of vision before touching him.
Kinds of Cones
If your pooch is simply miserable wearing an opaque hard collar, consider switching him to a see-through one so that his field of vision is improved. Ask your vet if a softer version of the cone might be appropriate for his injury because these types of cones won't impair his mobility as much. She might also recommend a surgical T-shirt instead of the cone, according to WebMD.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.