The first time Scruffy is forced to wear his Elizabethan collar (a.k.a. "E-collar" or the "cone"), he may lift his miserable eyes up to sky wondering what on earth he did to deserve such treatment. You may never see him wear it proudly, but if you'll take the right steps you can make wearing the "cone of shame" much more bearable.
Put Yourself in His Paws
When it comes to your dog's perspective on the Elizabethan collar, there's literally more than meets the eye. You can't blame him; suddenly deprived from peripheral visibility, he'll likely end up crashing into furniture and doorways or even getting stuck in a corner. Suddenly, the mere act of moving, eating or drinking becomes a difficult chore, and that can be quite distressing. Fortunately, with time, most dogs improve their navigational skills as they get accustomed to the feel.
Desensitize Him to the Collar
If you're lucky enough to know in advance that your dog will have to soon wear an E-collar, time is on your side. Take advantage of this and work on gradually desensitizing and counterconditioning your dog to the infamous lampshade collar. Start by showing your dog the E-collar every day and feeding him treats. Then start touching him with the E-collar and giving him treats. Progress by putting it on his head without fastening it and feeding him treats, and then fastening it for increasing periods of time while -- you guessed it -- giving him treats.
Find the Perfect Fit
Worse than wearing the dreaded lampshade collar is having to deal with an improper fit on top of that. Make sure it's snug enough so it does not slide off at the most inappropriate times, and that it's loose enough that you're able fit two fingers comfortably between the dog's neck and collar. Also, make sure the cone is not rubbing against the dog's neck, causing sores. For an ideal fit, ask your veterinarian for assistance.
Make Some Adjustments
Many dogs get used to the cone after wearing it for a few hours, but some dogs just seem to have a harder time. You can help Scruffy by keeping him in a confined area and making walking around easier by removing all movable objects such as stools, chairs, lamps, tables and other objects that can impede him.
If your dog finds it difficult eating and drinking from his feeding bowls because the edges of his cone hit the floor and prevent him from reaching his food, it will help to raise the bowls higher by setting them on a step stool or some other object. You might also try using a plate or shallow rather than a bowl. If his feeding station consists of a food and water bowl combination where the two sides are connected, use separate bowls (or plates) while he's wearing his collar. Whenever you're able to supervise him, you can also temporarily remove the cone and put it back on once he's finished eating and drinking.
Not All Cones are Created Equal
You might be familiar with the E-collar made out of clear, opaque plastic since it's the most common kind, but other types of more comfortable collars have been lately crafted with Fido in mind. Inflatable cones, doughnut-shaped collars, cones resembling neck braces for humans and cones made out of softer, more comfortable materials are now available for pooches who don't do too well with the traditional cones.
Play It Cool
Many dogs in tune with their owners will often readily pick up their emotions, whether good or bad. Try your best to not make a big fuss about how sorry you feel about him. If your dog sees you upset, he may become upset as well, and these negative feelings won't help him adjust to the cone and can interfere with his healing process. A nonchalant attitude often works best.
In the dire case that your dog will absolutely not tolerate wearing that satellite dish around his neck, you have a few other options. If feasible, you can keep the wound bandaged, but you'll need to prevent Scruffy from licking or chewing the bandage off. Spraying the bandage with a taste deterrent may help. Alternatively, if the area allows, you can have your dog wear a T-shirt that covers the healing site -- but this won't be enough for dogs who are more persistent, in which case they will require absolute close supervision at all times. When all else fails, you can ask your vet for a sedative. As extreme as that may seem, it's ultimately in your dog's best interest.
By Adrienne Farricelli
About the Author
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.