Any time a puppy must be medicated or needs a dog medical treatment from being injured you may need to know how to restrain a puppy to keep him—or you—from being hurt. It’s hard to tell him that you’re “pilling” him for his own good, or that he must leave that sore hot spot alone or it won’t heal. Struggling and getting upset won’t help either his emotional or physical state.
Your veterinarian can demonstrate how to use an effective restraint for your individual puppy. Different techniques work best for small- to large-size breeds and the easiest methods employ an extra pair of hands makes medicating go much more smoothly. One of you restrains the dog while the other administers the medication.
The puppy restraint technique you choose depends on which body part needs attention. For instance, a muzzle wouldn’t be appropriate if you needed to treat a wound inside the mouth. Here are some of the most common types of restraints.
7 Ways to Restrain Puppies
- Hug restraint: Used to immobilize the abdomen, legs, chest or back for treatment, the hug restraint works best on larger pups over 20 pounds. Bring one arm under and around the puppy’s neck in a half-nelson posture, and hug. With the other arm, reach over and around his chest and pull him closer to your chest.
- Stretch restraint: Small pups may be restrained most easily against the tabletop or floor by grasping the loose skin at the back of the neck—scruff—with one hand. Capture both hind feet with the other hand. Then gently stretch him out flat. Warning: This restraint technique should not be used with puppies that have prominent eyes, like Pekingese.
- Kneeling restraint: This is the best technique for Pekingese and other prominent-eyed dogs, because pressure around their necks may cause prolapsed eyeballs—the eyes pop out of the socket. Kneeling restraint also works very well on any small puppy especially when you must medicate puppies by yourself. Place the pet on the floor between your knees, facing out. Then put one hand on top of the head, and the other beneath his jaw to hold him still.
- Reclining restraint: This technique works particularly well on medium to large pups. Place your pet on his side, with the treatment area facing up for easy access. Grasp the ankle of the foreleg that’s nearest the ground while pressing your forearm across his shoulders to hold him gently down. Your other hand grasps the ankle of the hind leg that’s against the ground while pressing that forearm across his hips.
- Muzzle: Frazzled doggy nerves or a painful touch may prompt the most loving puppy to snap in reflex. A muzzle gently holds the dog’s mouth closed so he can’t bite. A variety of commercial muzzles are available from pet supply stores that fit large to small, sharp- to snub-nosed dogs. You can also make your own muzzle with a length of soft cloth, roll gauze, or even length of pantyhose. Tie a loop with the material and slip it around the pup’s nose—you may need someone to help you steady his head. Snug the knot over the top of his nose, then bring the ends down underneath and tie a second knot below his chin. Finally, draw the ends back behind his neck and tie in a bow behind his ears.
- Collar restraint: Commercial cone-shaped collars that surround the pet’s neck like the elaborate ruff of an Elizabethan noble are called Elizabethan collars. They come in a variety of sizes to fit any pet. However, some dogs strenuously object to wearing these collars because they have trouble eating or navigating with them on. Newer alternatives are softer versions, inflatable styles, or designed similar to the stiff cervical collars for people to wear after neck injuries. These collars are used to prevent dogs from pawing head wounds or from chewing body injuries. They are available at most pet supply stores or from your veterinarian.
- Body restraints: To protect shoulder and chest areas, fit the puppy with a tee shirt—his front legs go through the arms, his head through the neck, and the loose end is safety-pinned behind his rear legs beneath the tail. For body area protection, stand your pet on a towel or sheet, mark the positions of his feet on the material, and cut out holes in these places. Then put him back on the cloth with his feet through the openings. Pull it up over his legs, and secure over his back with safety pins.
In the best of all possible worlds, your puppy won't ever need to be restrained. But it's best to be prepared just in case so that neither one of you will suffer any more angst than necessary.