Does your dog hate going to the vet? Many dogs do, and it is a very problematic, yet common problem for pets. The vet causes a lot of stress when your dog learns to associate it with strange handling, poking, and prodding. Dogs that are nervous at the vet may growl, bite, or need to be muzzled. They may also be sedated to prevent injury to the veterinary professionals, yourself, or your own dog. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that can be used to increase calm behavior at the vet.
Prevention is always the best, and easiest step for making veterinary trips successful. If you’re just starting with a puppy, now is the perfect time to get them used to the vet! Start off by handling your puppy often. When your puppy is sleepy or calm is the best time. Gently pinch paws, stroke tails, look in the mouth, eyes, and ears, and make it a fun game. When your puppy sits still for handling, offer a treat and some praise! While this is easiest on younger dogs, you can start to gently handle your older dog this way as well. Be sure to take breaks if they become stressed as you want this to be a positive experience!
In addition to handling your puppy or dog often, practice trips to the vet can help. A practice trip is where you go just to have your dog walk in, sniff around, and get a few treats from the staff. Call your vet ahead of time to make sure there isn’t an emergency or full schedule of appointments before you go! Once there, bring a favorite treat. Offer it every time your dog shows calm behavior in the car, in the waiting room, or when approached by an employee. This helps your dog begin to associate the vet with more positive experiences rather than an always negative one!
Work With Your Vet
Many vets are now training their technicians in a technique called low-stress handling, which can help make vet visits easier. This is a way to safely restrain pets without making them more fearful. Finding a vet that does this is a good option for owners of fearful dogs that don’t like being handled or restrained.
Sometimes, the vet may just be too stressful for your dog, even with positive reinforcement, treats, and gentle handling. In some circumstances, sedation prior to or at the vet may be the best way to reduce stress for everyone. Having your dog sedated is NOT a failure of training. It is a way to safely handle your dog and keep your dog from reacting in a fearful manner. Talking with your vet to see if this is an option is always a good idea.
Starting early, handling your dog often, making vet trips fun, and rewarding calm behaviors are all great ways to make a trip to the vet less stressful. Even if your dog needs to be sedated, reducing stress as much as possible is best to keep your dog in his or her best health. Still not sure how to get started? Talking with your local dog trainer or behaviorist is another great option!
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