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Tip of the Month

5/25/2010 How to Prepare Your Pooch for a Vet Visit

An inevitable part of a good pet owner’s duties when caring for their dog, is to maintain their health. Naturally, keeping your best friend healthy involves an annual visit to…pause for dramatic music…the dreaded veterinarian. Even the word ‘vet’ strikes fear into the hearts of many otherwise brave dogs, and you may find yourself unable to speak the word itself in their presence, referring to it as the ‘V-E-T’ every time your pal is around. A trip to the vet for a dog is the equivalency of you paying a visit to the dentist. Painful, but necessary. In your case, although you may repeatedly put off the detestable appointment, is that you are aware of the importance of the visit. Your dog, however, is not.

All that your pal knows is that a visit to the vet means that he will be poked, prodded, and pricked in uncomfortable places for no good reason! Not to mention, he is in a cold, strange place filled with unusual noises, bad smells, and unfamiliar people.

Even if your pooch is sick, or in pain, they do not recognize the importance of seeing the doctor. Regardless of whether or not it helps them feel better in the end, your pal may fight tooth and nail in attempt to escape the visit. Unfortunately, it is an unavoidable part of being a pet owner. However, by employing a few helpful tips, you can make the process of this event a lot easier to handle.

• First and foremost, part of the reason why your dog may be so fearful of the vet visit is because he is shy or uncomfortable around new people. When you put him in a situation where he is away from you, being handled by strangers, he can often react with fear, or even aggressive behavior. Even if your dog does not normally behave this way, you would be surprised to find how much his nature changes when he encounters a high-stress situation. To avoid this, it is important to socialize your dog early on. It is a good idea to introduce him to new people and situations as often as possible. That way, he learns to be more trusting with strangers, and is less likely to react violently when you take a trip to the vet. If you establish the mentality that the vet’s office is not scary early on, it will make future visits more pleasant.

• With older dogs that have had prior experience at the doctor’s office, it is a little more difficult to help them adjust to the atmosphere. It is likely that your pooch has already adopted a negative attitude towards the vet, making the situation a bit more complicated. In order to get past this preconceived notion, it is important to get your dog used to being touched. You can start this exercise by making sure that your pooch is in a relaxed state, and gently touching his ears, his feet, and his mouth. If he reacts aggressively, use dog training methods to correct him, and repeat the act. When he gives you a positive response, reward him. By doing this, your dog will learn that being handled can be a pleasant experience, and will be less likely to lash out when he is touched by a stranger.

• In the event that your dog is not hurt, and is simply going to see the vet for one of his yearly check ups or vaccinations, a good way to get rid of some of that excess energy is to take him out for some exercise. By playing a game of fetch, or just taking a few laps around the park, your dog will feel a little more at ease, which creates less likelihood for behavior problems at the vet.

• Even when your pooch is properly trained in dog obedience, sometimes he just doesn’t get along well with other dogs. If your dog is not normally friendly with other pets, his dislike of four-legged company will be amplified in this high stress situation. In order to avoid any acting out on your dog’s behalf, notify the staff ahead of time, and keep him outside of the building and away from other patients until the vet is ready to see him. That way, you will not be adding any extra anxiety onto yourself, and onto your dog.

• Remember, your dog’s behavior relies not only on how much obedience training he has, but also on your attitude towards the situation. As any dog trainer will tell you, your pal is a sensory creature. If you are nervous at the vet’s office, he will pick up on your attitude, and may behave in a similar manner. To avoid this, try to keep calm when inside of the office. When you are at ease, your pal is more likely to feel the same way. Remember that you are there for your dog’s benefit and well-being, so try to stay positive, even if you are worried.

By establishing positive coping skills such as the ones listed above, you and your pet will be able to have a safe and happy experience at the vet’s office. Visiting the doctor is not always a bad thing, so keep in mind that your pet could use reassurance in the event of a visit. With preparation, tact, and understanding, your pal will be on the path to a better attitude towards the veterinarian.

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