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Avoid Vet Visit Woes - Tips to Help Your Dog Love the Vets!

Taking your dog to the vet can be a very stressful experience for both them and you! Not only is it full of strangers in human and animal form, but it will also smell and look very unusual to them. They will often form an association of these surroundings with being touched, prodded, injected and more – all kinds of hands on, intrusive handling. Some dog’s handle this well and are able to go with the flow, however, some dogs understandably can become uncomfortable or worried by the vets. Setting them up for success in advance can turn a stressful vet visit into an examination success!


Dog at vets

First Impressions Count!


The first, and one of the easiest ways you can ensure your visit will be a smooth one, is to ensure you are with a fear free vet practice, or at least a practice that understands and promotes positive and reward-based dog training and handling. How the vets handle your dog will make a huge impact on how the dog perceives the visit. Rough, fast, and harsh handling will increase fear and stress in your dog – put yourself in their paws! How would it make you feel if your GP rushed your appointment and wasn’t mindful of handling those sore spots?

Other signs of a fear free practice may include:


  • Separate waiting areas for dogs and cats as well as appropriate space between them. Some practices may even provide blankets or barriers to hide the animals from each other.

  • If your dog is very fearful/reactive of other animals, it’s also worth checking if they have another entrance, you can bring your dog through.

  • Nonslip floors for secure footing. Slipper floors can increase the anxiety and tension a dog is feeling. Think of how you feel when you first step on ice – tense? That’s how our dogs feel on flooring such as tile, wooden and some lino types.

 

Desensitise to Success!


You can do lots of things at home to help your dog feel more confident before the vet visit day even arrives! We can create positive experiences by pairing elements of the vet visit with a reward. Here are some examples:


  • Have family members wear white coats at home. Play with your dog while they are wearing them so that the white coat doesn’t immediately equal poking and prodding!

  • Practice with dogs on walks. Use the tips in this article to start to train your dog how to respond when they see other dogs.

  • Go for car rides to the vets, but then have a small play/training session either in the boot or in the car park. Rather than taking them to the vet office, after the fun stops, go home. Teach them that the car journey doesn’t always predict a vet visit.

  • Consider muzzle training your dog before the visit. If your dog is nervous, a vet may choose to use a muzzle anyway to keep them safe from bites. By training and preparing beforehand, you will be reducing any additional stress if the vet uses one. The video below is a step by step guide.


  • Gradually expose your dog to elements associated with the vet visit, such as white coats, stethoscopes, and handling. Take it slow and break down each element while always pairing it with a reward. Rather than doing a full vet visit in one training session, consider spending a couple of minutes checking your dog’s ears, feet, or teeth. Then add in another step as your dog progresses. Remember, the slower and calmer you go, the easier it will be for your dog to build confidence.


Remember:


  • Stay as calm and as relaxed as you can. Tight leads, stressed handling and lack of preparation will cause your dog to feel stressed too.

  • Observe your dog closely for subtle signs of anxiety (yawning, licking, or looking around). Ask the receptionist if you can step outside to give your dog a break while you are waiting.

  • Some pheromone products may help in situations where your dog is feeling mildly anxious. Pet Remedy and Adaptil are well known UK brands that have positive reviews.

  • Be your dog’s advocate! Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel your dog needs a break from the handling or the procedure. You know your dog best.


If you are having difficulty with your dogs vet visits and would like some one to one help, get in touch today!

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