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Interacting with Animals at a Veterinary Hospital

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  • 0:02 Interacting With Animals
  • 0:46 What is Behavior?
  • 2:09 Animal Handling & Restraint
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will define and contrast two important behaviors in animals: instinctive behavior and learned behavior. It will cover the basics of animal handling and restraint.

Interacting with Animals

Before, during, and after veterinary school, I got to interact with a lot of different animals: lions, tigers, house cats, dogs, kangaroos, and many others. I guess that's one of the perks of the job!

Some of these animals, lions not included, I grew up with and knew how best to interact with. Others, I had almost no knowledge of prior to veterinary school. For example, it was only in veterinary school that I became comfortable interacting with horses. It's a learning process, that's for sure.

So, although many other lessons will go over the details of this, for now I want to introduce you to two important aspects of interacting with any animal: behavior recognition and restraint.

What Is Behavior?

When I was a little boy, I used to think all dogs were friendly. That's because all the dogs I interacted with were friendly! To me, a dog with a wagging tail was a happy dog. I only later learned that a dog with a wagging tail may be happy to see you, happy to kill you, or anything else in between. You have to look for other clues to distinguish what the dog may be thinking.

Thus, the importance of recognizing an animal's behavior. A behavior is an observable activity or response in an animal. Behaviors can be broken into two main kinds: instinctive and learned.

This one's easy. I'm sure you could think of an instinctive behavior. For instance, kittens snuggling up to one another to keep each other warm. The newborn kittens had no time to learn that behavior, and thus it's an instinctive behavior. In other words, an instinctive behavior is a behavior acquired thanks to an animal's genetic code. It's sort of pre-programmed in, if you will, prior to birth.

In opposition to this, there is learned behavior, a behavior that is modified or acquired through specific experiences. A wolf instinctively wants to hunt prey in order to eat but must learn from elder pack leaders how to hunt effectively.

Animal Handling & Restraint

Once you learn an animal's behaviors, you are in a much better position to properly restrain and handle it. Remember my dog example from before! Once I learned that a wagging tail on its own doesn't mean the dog is happy to see me, I began looking for other behaviors to clue me into whether the dog was truly happy or not. Knowing this, I would know how best to handle the dog in each scenario.

Since you'll be working in the veterinary clinic, what I'd like for you to know is an animal's behavior will often change when their environment changes. This means that even if a friend's dog is coming into the clinic, one you know well, you should still reassess its behavior within the clinical setting. It may not be what you expect! This would mean you would have to handle your friend's dog very differently at the clinic than from the way you two interact at your friend's house.

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