Help Your Vet Help Your Dog
Dogs can be afraid of going to a veterinarian or they can love it — it all depends on how they are trained before they go to the vet’s office and how they are treated at the office.
You can do a number of things at home to Help Your Vet Help Your Dog.
Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior
in Your Vet’s Office
There are things that happen in our lives that we don’t like and situations we are afraid of. But the more prepared we are, the more secure we will feel. Behavior under stress is exaggerated. If your dog is normally calm and confident, in your vet’s office he may be shy, cautious, panicky, or aggressive. He is in a place with new smells, unfamiliar sights, strange sounds, and different surfaces to walk on. He also picks up on the emotions of the other people and animals surrounding him. He needs your help and guidance to prepare him for new things. Be patient with him and act upbeat even though you may not be.
Socializing Your Dog
Before Going to Your Vet’s Office
If your dog spends the majority of his time in your house and yard and does not meet people outside your family members, then chances are that he will be apprehensive and fearful of any new situations he finds himself in. The socialization process means getting your dog used to new sounds, sights, smells, and flooring. Socialization and habituation to new things will not only help him at the vet’s office, but it will help him become a well-adjusted and calmer dog at home.
Introduce your dog to people of all ages who wear different kinds of clothing and carry all sorts of objects. Take him to different environments. Let him walk on new surfaces and see and hear different sights and sounds such as motorcycles, trucks backfiring, umbrellas opening, and children playing. It may take him a little time to get used to the outside world, so please be patient.
Obedience Training Helps
When Your Vet Examines Your Dog
Obedience training is trust training — your dog trusts you to keep him safe when you are his leader. You set guidelines and boundaries for him, and he feels safe within them.
Train your dog to sit, stay, stand, and lie down on command. For the sit command, your dog is standing in front of you. Take a treat and hold it at his nose. Slowly move the treat just above his head between his eyes. He should follow the treat with his nose, and that movement will make his head come up and his rear end go to the floor. Praise him and give him the treat.
For the stand (now that he is sitting), hold the treat just in front of his nose and bring your hand towards your body so he has to get up to reach for the treat. When he stands, praise him and give him the treat.
For the down, he should be in the sit position. Put a treat just in front of his nose and slowly bring it to the floor between his toes. His head will lower to get the treat. When it does, wait until his head is almost touching the floor, and then slowly drag the treat towards you.
Handling Exercises Are a Good Way
to Get Your Dog Used to
a Person Moving His Body in New Ways
Similar to How Your Vet Will
While you are at home, handle your dog as your vet would during an exam. Choose a quiet time and quiet place. Give him treats during this whole process and let him become comfortable with each part of the process before proceeding to the next part.
Several times a day, pick up your dog and put him on a raised surface such as a countertop so he will not be afraid of getting up on the examination table.
Begin by just touching all parts of his body as if you are giving him an all-over body massage. As he gets comfortable with that, then touch his ears, look inside his ears, open his mouth, touch his teeth and gums, move his tongue around. Pick up his paws. Run your hands down his legs. Gently squeeze his feet, toes, and tail. Hold and then squeeze gently his shoulders and then his hips between your hands. Press gently on his spine.
Now get him ready for the positions he might be put in. Give him a bear hug while you are facing him. Then give him one from behind him. Hold his head in the crook of your arm. This is how a technician would hold him.
Put him on his right side and stretch his legs out away from you. Then do the same thing on his left side. Lay him on his back and give him a belly rub. Then gently stretch his legs out. These positions simulate positions for x-ray procedures
Every member of your family should repeat these exercises. Then have someone he knows do the same thing. Remember to give him treats!!!
Working with Your Vet and Staff
before Bringing Your Dog to the Vet Office
Going to your vet’s office should be a positive experience. Drive there several times and simply stay in the parking lot giving your dog treats. Then go into the reception area and ask the receptionist and staff to make a fuss over your dog and give him treats. Some dogs don’t like the slippery floors. Get Shaws Paws to put on your dog’s feet to help them grip the floor better or bring some carpeting for him to walk on. If you have a puppy, then do not let him walk on the floor or around your vet’s office – including outside – until at least two weeks after he has had his final puppy vaccine because his body is building up immunity to the diseases.
When you do make an appointment, make it at the least busy time of your doctor’s day. Arrive early so you are not stressed. Ask the staff members to give your dog treats. You may want to bring a towel for your dog to lie on in the reception area.
Before your doctor begins examining your dog, tell him about any sensitivities your dog has. Your dog might feel more comfortable on the floor rather than on an examination table, so ask your doctor if the examination can be performed on the floor. Also ask your doctor to give your dog treats during his examination.
Other Things to Consider
Sometimes despite your best efforts to get your dog acclimated to your veterinarian’s office, it still may not go as well as you expected. There are other things that can be done that may help.
Here are some options:
- Stay in your car while waiting to see the vet and ask the staff to come get you. Go immediately from your car into the exam room and don’t wait in the reception area.
- Give your dog homeopathic, holistic, or herbal remedies to calm him before his visit or ask your veterinarian for a tranquilizer. (Check with your doctor ahead of time as to whether administration of any of these would interfere with his examination and blood work.)
- Arrange for your doctor to come to your home.
- Learn your dog’s acupressure points for calmness.
- Learn how to use your own body language, voice, and movement to help calm him down.
The suggestions given here are just a brief general overview of ways to help your dog. Both you and your dog may need the help of a trainer to design specific counter conditioning and desensitization techniques for your situation.
Read the article add “Help Your Groomer Help Your Dog” for more dog handling tips.
I’d love to hear what your comments are. What do you do to prepare your dog for a veterinary examination? Please share your experiences with your dog or ask a question so we can begin a dialogue to help each other.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational only. It does not replace a consultation with a dog behavior consultant or veterinarian and may not be used to diagnose or treat any conditions in your dog.