What to Know if Your Dog Needs to Wear a Cone

If your vet advises you to put a cone on your dog, you’re not alone. Most dogs will need one at some point. Also known as Elizabethan, Buster or E-collars, they’re no fun and not a great look.

Some owners refer to them as “Cones of Shame.” They have a point, but that’s only because some dogs can’t resist a lick or a scratch on a part of their body that needs to heal.

Find out more about dog cones and how to get your dog used to wearing one as we look into why they are so important.

Why Vets Advise Wearing Cones

Cones are very useful tools that can stop your pet from scratching or chewing a cut, incision or spot on their body that needs to mend. If your dog doesn’t wear a cone when the advice is to do so, they can aggravate wounds and cause severe complications. 

More stitches might be necessary, for example. That might mean your pet having a general anesthetic, meaning more cost to you and more stress for your dog.

A vet will often prescribe the wearing of a cone after a surgical procedure. Typically they’ll ask you to keep the cone on your dog for 1 or 2 weeks. Your dog might need the cone for longer, perhaps 6 to 12 weeks, following any orthopedic types of surgery.

It’s not only after surgery that a vet might recommend a cone. Your dog might have a hot spot, lump or wart that they need to leave well alone and allow to dry out and heal.

How to Get Your Dog Ready to Wear a Cone

Cones vary in size. How big your dog’s head and face are will be the key determining factor when selecting the most appropriate cone.

You should be able to pick up a dog cone from your vet’s office in advance of any pre-arranged surgery. It should normally take a few days to a week or so for your dog to adjust to wearing a cone.

Some Training Tips

Some dogs will resist wearing cones, particularly at first. It’s wise to prepare the space in your home. Remove any breakables, such as lamps and ornaments, in case your dog tries to shake off the cone.

As ever, with any kind of training, you’ll need time and patience. Here are the 6 steps to follow:

1. Before Your Dog Starts Wearing the Cone

Keep hold of the cone or put it on the floor or ground in front of you. In the first instance, don’t attempt to put the cone on your dog. Simply reward your pet with a treat whenever they take an interest in the cone.

If they smell, touch with their nose or even look at the cone, praise your dog and offer them a treat. Keep training sessions brief and make them fun. Continue the process until your dog displays no signs of fear or stress when they’re near the cone.

2. Getting Your Dog’s Head in the Cone

Next up, hold up the cone with the wide opening facing toward your dog. Praise and reward your dog if they make any kind of head movement into the cone area.

It might take some time for your dog to get used to examining the inside of the cone. Be patient and go slowly. Keep repeating the process until you get to a point when your dog feels comfortable with putting their head in the opening of the cone.

Use encouraging techniques to tempt your dog. For example, you could put a treat in your hand and then reach through the neck opening of the cone to lure them in.

3. Switch the Cone Around

Now present your dog with the smaller opening to the cone facing them. Again, reward them with a treat and lots of praise if they put their nose close to or through the opening.

Try luring them with a favorite treat in your hand. Place your hand through the opening, and get them to follow it through as you pull your arm back toward you. Keep going with the training until your dog’s used to placing their head through the smaller opening.

4. Extending the Time Period

Begin prolonging the length of time your dog keeps their head in the collar. Plenty of praise and treats are again essential whenever this happens successfully. You can then begin to clip the collar shut, reward your dog and then unclip the cone straight away.

5. Tapping on the Cone

Carry on increasing the length of time your dog wears the cone. At the same, begin to rotate the cone around your pet’s head while they’re wearing it. Tap lightly on the cone on the inside and outside. This helps your dog get used to the different sounds they’ll hear while they have the cone on.

6. Walking with Your Dog

Walk with your dog while they’re wearing the cone. This allows them to get used to the cone and to maneuver around obstacles while they have it on. Praise them when they keep their head upright when walking so that they avoid getting the cone caught on the carpet or floor.

Guide them through doorways and around corners so they can get used to a new way of moving about. You could also try using a longer leash until your dog gets used to the distance it needs to keep from what’s close to them while wearing the cone.

Keep the cone clean by using a little soap and water on a cloth to prevent the build-up of germs or unpleasant odors.

Always Consult Your Vet Before Removing the Cone Permanently

Before you take your dog’s cone off for good, you must check in with your vet to ensure that it’s all right to do so.

There are alternatives to plastic cones available. These include inflatable collars, neck collars (similar to cervical neck braces we might wear), soft collars and surgical recovery suits. However, some of the alternatives are not always as effective as the standard cones, so check with your vet prior to switching.

If you have any further questions or need reassurance about the wearing of a dog cone, please get in touch. We always have a vet available to offer advice.

You can find plenty more useful articles related to keeping your dog happy and healthy in our blog section here. We are able to offer a range of highly competitive pet insurance products too. Get in touch to find out more.

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