The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
...so help me, dog.
Giving a dog medication can be unpleasant, for both the owner and the dog. If taking his daily dose makes your dog upset, please give him a head's up that it is coming. Here's how, and why.
One of my dogs needs medication, twice a day. He isn't as hungry as he used to be, which the medication helps to address. Unfortunately, his lack of appetite means I can't just hide the pill in a bit of tasty food. So I have to "pill" him - that is, I have to open his mouth and pop the pill in. Luckily for me, we've worked on this in the past and although he finds the procedure to be a bit unpleasant, he doesn't find it horrible. (If your dog needs to be pilled this way and finds the procedure to be scary or awful, please contact a good, positive trainer. They can help make this chore much easier, more pleasant for your pup, and safer for you.)
I always make sure to give him something he does like and want right after I pill him - I scratch his head, neck and back for a few minutes. He has learned to anticipate the scratches, and over time, this could even make him enjoy being pilled. If he were hungry, I would give him food afterwards, since food is almost always better than patting from a dog's perspective. But then again if he were hungry, I would not have to pill him in this way in the first place.
When it is time to give him his pills, and before I start to head towards him, I always say "Sorry, pill time." Why would I do this? It feels counter-intuitive. Wouldn't it be best to wait until the last possible moment, keeping the pills hidden in my hand... and then when he is not expecting it, get the job done? Isn't the warning just prolonging his discomfort?
But here is where our intuition may be failing us. I say "sorry" so that he does know what to expect. I am telling him that this time, but only this time, I'm coming over for doctoring. My hope is that every other time I approach him, he will be able to say "ah, mom is coming but I know it's OK, no pills, because I didn't hear that phrase."
I love it that when I approach my dogs, it sets their tails a-thumping. I'll do whatever I can to protect the thump-thump-thump. I want to make sure that if there is anything that simply can't be avoided and is a bit unpleasant for my dog, I tell them the truth.