For the majority of dog owners, visiting the veterinarian is a fact of life, and while some of our furry friends may not enjoy it (understatement of the year when it comes to my 10-year-old collie-cross!), it certainly doesn’t have to be such a traumatic trip.
Here are a few tips on how to help your dog have a less stressful vet visit and the younger your pet is when you start this the better, although it’s worth the effort for dogs of ANY age:
1. Impromptu Visits
Make impromptu visits to the vet when your dog doesn’t NEED their assistance – perhaps drop in as part of your walk once a week. Let the practice staff know you are trying to train your pooch and get them to make a fuss of them – only if your dog likes it of course!
Also, as with any positive reinforcement training, remember to give them some tasty treats.
This will help your dog build up positive feelings about visiting the vet, so that when they do actually need to be seen for treatment, they will be more relaxed.
One of the things many dogs dislike about visiting the vet is being handled, especially in places they are not used to being touched.
This is another thing you can help your dog get used to at home, long before they need to visit the vet. Start at home by touching them on a part of their body you know they enjoy – often the chest or behind the ears are favorite places. Leave your hand there for no more than three seconds, then give them a treat, and let them relax.
Gradually move your hand to a new area, perhaps the front leg, for a maximum of three seconds, and give a treat each time. If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point, stop what you are doing. Remember to take this ‘touch and treat’ approach super slowly. The ultimate aim is to be able to eventually touch your dog on their paws, lift up their tail, look in their mouth – basically, all of the things a vet may need to do during an examination.
Gradually increase the time you leave your hand on them up to 10 seconds. As with so many aspects of dog training, the ‘little and often’ approach tends to work best, so set aside some time each week and make this part of your play time.
3. Waiting Room
There’s more often than not a period in the waiting room, so help your pooch relax by bringing their favorite toy and blanket and talk to them in a calm voice to keep their focus on you. This will help reassure them and know that their best friend is right by their side.
If possible, be sure to sit as far away from the door and the busy reception desk as you can. Also, try and create space between other visitors and position your dog so that they are facing away from other animals. This will help lessen their anxiety and keep them more settled.
4. Examination Room
When it’s time to go into the examination room, remember that you are your dog’s best friend, and they are relying on you to speak up for them. You know better than anyone how your dog shows they are stressed and growling is the common way dogs vocalize that they are not comfortable. The vet will be totally absorbed in actual examination or procedure, so may be unable to see your pet’s face or hear them. It’s up to you to pay close attention to how your furry friend is reacting to the procedure and if they get stressed or begin to growl, please do not hold back from politely, but firmly, asking the vet to stop what they are doing. Both your dog and your vet will thank you for speaking up!
NEVER tell your dog off for growling – they are only trying to tell you they are in distress.
Bites can occur during vet examinations because the owner and the vet ignored a growl and the dog felt they had no other way to show how uncomfortable they felt in that situation. Being aware of the diﬀerent ways your furry friend communicates is the best way to ensure every visit to the vets has a happy ending.
While regular vet visits are necessary to help ensure our furry best friends are kept in tip-top health, we hope that you do not have cause for more frequent visits due to accident or illness.
Wishing you and your canine companions the best of health – always!
Helen Broadley & The FidoActive Team
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