Preparing Your Dog to Visit the Veterinarian
An inevitable part of a good dog owner’s duties is to maintain her pet’s health. Naturally, keeping your dog healthy involves an annual visit to the dreaded veterinarian. Even the word “veterinarian” strikes fear into the hearts of many otherwise brave dogs, and you may find yourself unable to speak the word itself in his presence, referring to it as the “V-E-T” every time your dog 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, you’re aware of the importance of the visit whereas your dog does not.
All that your dog knows is that a visit to the vet means he’ll 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 dog is sick, or in pain, he doesn’t recognize the value in seeing the doctor. Regardless of whether or not it helps him feel better in the end, your pet 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.
How to Prepare Your Dog for the Vet
Socialize Your Dog
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’s away from you and being handled by strangers, he may react with fear or even aggressive behavior.
Even if your dog does not normally behave this way, you may be surprised to find how much his nature changes when he encounters a stressful situation. To avoid this, it’s important to socialize your dog early on.
Introduce him to new people and situations as often as possible. That way, he learns to be more trusting of strangers and is less likely to react violently when you take a trip to the vet. If you help your dog establish the mentality that the vet’s office is not scary early on, it will make future visits more pleasant.
Get Him to Relax
With older dogs who have had prior experience at the doctor’s office, it can be a little more difficult to help them adjust to the atmosphere. It’s likely your dog has already adopted a negative attitude toward the vet, making the situation more complicated. In order to get past this preconceived notion, it’s important to get your dog used to being touched.
Start this exercise by gently touching his ears, feet and mouth, making sure he’s in a relaxed state. 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 less likely to lash out when he’s touched by a stranger.
In the event your dog isn’t injured and is simply going to see the vet for one of his yearly checkups or vaccinations, a good way to get rid 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.
Notify the Staff Ahead of Time
Even when your dog is properly trained in dog obedience, sometimes he just doesn’t get along with other dogs. If your dog is not normally friendly with other pets, his dislike of other dogs 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 won’t be adding any extra anxiety onto yourself and your dog.
Remember, your dog’s behavior relies not only on how much obedience training he has, but also on your attitude toward the situation. As any dog trainer will tell you, your dog is a sensory creature. If you’re 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’re at ease, your dog is more likely to feel the same way. Remember that you’re there for your dog’s benefit and well-being so try to stay positive even if you’re 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 your canine could use reassurance in the event of a visit. With preparation, tact and understanding, your dog will be on the path to a better attitude toward the veterinarian.
You may also like: Is Pre-Surgical Blood Work Really Necessary?
Want to learn how to become a vet assistant? Check out Animal Behavior College’s Veterinary Assistant Program.