If your dog is anything like mine, he HATES the vet clinic with a fiery burning passion. The fact of the matter is, going to the vet clinic is a part of every pet dog’s life, and it’s just something that they need to accept. Of course it’s impossible to explain that logically to a dog because they don’t have the capacity to understand us, so we have to make the process as enjoyable as possible for them. Whether your dog likes the vet clinic or not, there are a few things that you can do to make the process smoother for your dogs. In this article we will talk about how to cure your dog’s fear of the vet clinic.
It’s a good idea to figure out what exactly your dog dislikes about the vet clinic. This will help you to specialize your training. Does your dog refuse to go through the door? This means that your dog associates the building with negative things. Is your dog afraid of one particular vet? Perhaps you should switch to a new vet at the same location. Pay attention to how your dog reacts while at the clinic to better understand where their fear stems from so that you can help to ease that fear using some of the following tactics.
Whether your dog already has a fear of the vet clinic, or you have a puppy that you want to ensure will not develop a fear, follow these 5 tips.
Bring some treats for your dog (if you don’t have any with you that’s fine, most clinics are fully stocked in treats and kibble to give your dog). Throughout the visit continue to give your dog treats and praise. By doing this your dog will begin to associate the clinic with good things (like food), rather than the bad things (like needles). Your dog will be more willing to enter the vet clinic if it knows that it will receive good things there.
I suggest using high value treats for these visits. By high value I mean something more wonderful than the average treat. A low value treat would be something that your dog encounters regularly, like kibble, whereas a high value treat it something special, like chicken. The better the reward, the more the dog will enjoy itself in this potentially stressful situation.
Encourage everyone at the vet clinic give your dog a treat, especially the veterinarian. If good things are coming from the everyone, then the dog will be more comfortable, and will come to enjoy the environment. This is particularly helpful if your dog is fearful of strangers. The treats from new people will increase your dog’s confidence, which will help to cure your dog’s fear of the vet clinic.
2. Drop-In Visits
Bring your dog to the vet clinic even when you are not going for an appointment. Ideally your clinic is not too far from your house so that it is not an inconvenience for you to stop in regularly. If every time you enter the building something negative happens, your dog will begin to associate the vet clinic with negative things. What you want is for the good experiences to outweigh the bad. Bring your dog into the clinic, have everyone pet him and give him treats and then leave. This will help your dog to see that there’s nothing to fear at the vet clinic. It will begin to become an ordinary routine.
Set up a schedule for visits and stick to it. It’s very easy to take this off of the priority list when you find yourself getting busy in life, but it is so important that you do it, and do it regularly. By doing this, you’ll save yourself, and your dog, the stress of future visits to the vet. I suggest dropping in for a visit at least once a week. If your dog requires more vet appointments than the average dog, or if there is a scheduled appointment in the near future, then it’s a good idea to up the amount of times you stop in. You need not spend more than a few minutes in the clinic. You will begin to see a drastic change in your dog’s anxiety level after a few short visits.
3. Introduce Touch
If your dog has a problem being touched by the vet then there are many things you can do at home to prepare for an impending vet visit. This is a constant problem for my dog, who enjoys being at the clinic, but will try to bite when the vet advances with the stethoscope. The key to overcoming this is to introduce your dog to touch slowly. If your dog has a particular place that it doesn’t like to be touched by anyone, let’s say his back legs, then begin at home by touching his body yourself. Begin far away from the legs. Pet and stroke your dog, while at the same time feeding him treats. Slowly move towards the back legs. Never make fast movements, and if your dog seems very anxious, growls, or seems about to bite, then back off and discontinue the exercise for the day. Always work at the pace of your dog, and never push him further than he’s able to go.
In the beginning, you should be the one working with your dog. Once he is successfully letting your touch his body, have another close person in his life do the same. Once this is successful you can move to an acquaintance of the dogs, and eventually, strangers. This can be a very long process, depending on the issues that your dog has with touch. It’s a good idea, during your drop-in visits, to have the vet touch your dog gently, and non-invasively, in order to build up a tolerance, so that your dog will be less anxious during his yearly check-up appointment, where your vet will need physically touch your dog’s body.
Never force your dog into anything while at the vet clinic. If your dog is bulking at walking in, don’t force it, instead encourage it and lure it with food. If you force your dog to do something that it doesn’t want to do, then you’re creating a negative experience which your dog will remember the rest of it’s life.
Of course there are certain situations at the vet clinic where you need compliance from your dog, situations that are potentially life or death, and the best thing to do in these situations, rather than forcing the dog, is to administer non-invasive medication. In other words, this is “chilling out” medicine. The type of drug that is used varies depending on the vet, but a common one is trazodone, because the side effects on the dog are minimal. For many dogs, this drugs helps to ease their anxiety while at appointments, allowing for the vet to conduct his examination. Essentially, this medication can cure your dog’s fear of the vet clinic. It should be noted that, as with humans, drugs have different effects on different dogs. In some cases the dog’s fear may be absolutely cured, while there may seem to be no difference for another dog. Using drugs is not the best option in my opinion, but it can sometimes be necessary, and it is definitely something to look into while you are working to get your dog comfortable at the vet clinic. They should not be used as a means to an end, but should be combined with the other tactics that I mentioned above. If you think that this may be a good option for your dog, than talk with your vet about it and they can give you more guidance.
5. Start Young
If you have a puppy, it’s very important that you get him used to going to the vets from a young age. The veterinary clinic is a facility that your dog will need to spend some time at, regardless of it’s opinion of the place. Puppies will need to visit the vet quite often during the first few weeks of coming to your home, so it’s important that they develop a good relationship with the place. The things that a dog learns in puppyhood shape it’s opinion of the world throughout it’s life, so you want to shape a good association with the veterinary clinic while your dog is young. This is especially important before the age of 12 weeks, because your puppy is in it’s sensitive period, which is a time prior in which your puppy develops its fear impulses. This is the perfect time to introduce your puppy to all of the locations and experiences that it will encounter throughout it’s adult life. If you want your puppy to enjoy going to the vet’s then this is the time to instil that!
Going to the vet clinic can be just as stressful for the owner as it is for the dog. We know that it’s essential, and necessary, for our dog to visit the vet, and it breaks our heart to see them afraid. Unfortunately, for the health of our dog, skipping the trip to the vet it not an option, so it’s best if we learn how to make the situation as enjoyable as possible for our dogs. Your dog may never like going to the vet, just as most people don’t like going to the dentist, but it is something that needs to be endured, so let’s help our fur babies out and guide them positively through their visit with the vet.