We may try to avoid our visits to the dentist, or even to see a doctor if we know we are in for a vaccination or blood test. Nobody likes needles. Your dog is not appreciative of this either. A bad experience will be remembered for a lifetime, causing severe stress the moment your dog realizes where he is. He may crouch low, salivate excessively, whine, shake and drop a lot of fur along the path into the clinic. Some dogs become so frightened that they cannot control their bladder or bowels.
There are ways of insuring that your dog enjoys his veterinary visits as much as he does playing in the yard or splashing in a puddle. In essence, make every experience positive through the use of guidance and rewards.
1. Take your dog for rides in the car without going to the veterinarian. Let your dog know that every car trip will be a fun adventure. Take him to a park, a pet shop; a neighbor’s house where there are other dogs to play. If he enjoys water sports, take him to a lake or stream, allowing him time to frolic and play fetching games.
2. When you have occasion to pass your veterinarian’s office, stop and bring your dog inside to say hello. If you are working on some obedience training this is a great time to work with distraction proofing. There are bound to be other animals and people in the waiting area. Perfect time to teach your dog to listen to your cues. A working dog is far less stressed as he has a purpose and knows that he will be rewarded for his performance.
3. If your dog is easily stressed by the presence of other dogs, schedule your appointment for a less popular time of day. For example, mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Most people are busy with school or work at these times creating. A quieter waiting room.
4. Bring lots of high value treats with you. If your dog is worried about new people ask the vet techs and receptionist to feed him the treats when he arrives. Ask the veterinarian to do the same and to take her time with your pet to create a positive experience. If your veterinarian has to perform a medical procedure, help by focusing your pet on the treat and giving him the reward the moment the procedure has been completed.
5. As with all training, catch your pet doing the right thing. If he relaxes and sits or lies down, praise and reward. If he greets people in a friendly manner, praise and reward. If he allows the veterinarian to perform a procedure reward this as well. Do not reward him for bad behavior such as heavy panting, whining, barking, growling or jumping up. If he displays such behavior quickly redirect him into the appropriate behavior and offer rewards for doing so.
Involve yourself in this process from the very beginning. Do not wait until your dog is hopelessly afraid of seeing his doctor. Early intervention is far easier and much more enjoyable for everybody.