Curing Fear of Vet
"Curing Your Dog's Fear Of The Vet"
Today I want to talk to you about the often dreaded "Vet trip".
For some lucky dog owners it's a breeze. Their dog happily bounds into the examination room and only seems mildly put off by the doctors poking and prodding. Most dog owners aren't so lucky. The good news is your dog can learn to enjoy the Vet if you start doing a few specific things. But before I tell you how to make "Vet trips" stress free I want to explain an important concept to you:
Petting a scared dog encourages fear!
For example: A few months ago I helped a client named Priscilla who's dog was terrified of the vet. She would always pet her dog in an attempt to calm her down but it wasn't working. With each visit to the Vet things got progressively worse and here's why; Priscilla was rewarding her dog's fear.
This is a terrible mistake.
One that has probably gotten a lot of veterinarians bitten over the years. And unless you accept that dogs see affection much differently than humans you are destined to have a dog that gets more fearful of the vet with each visit.
Through your dog's eyes every time you pet her you are giving her a treat. If your dog is hyper and you smother her with kisses and affection you are asking for more hyperactivity. If your dog is hiding behind you in fear and you reward her fear with a back massage your dog will become more fearful, not less. It's vital thay you become aware of this concept and start recognizing when it isn't a good idea to pet your dog.
So how do you make the Vet's office a happy place? Here's how I did it:
When Priscilla called me for help the first thing I did was take her dog on a long walk. A tired dog is a happy dog. So first I wanted to put all that excess energy to good use. I've found that dogs who don't get regular walks have a tough time coping with all the sounds and smells they find in a Veterinary office.
The next step was to get her as relaxed as possible. After the walk, but before I left the house was the perfect time for me to give her a belly rub and pet her. I made sure to focus on her ears, lips, and belly because these are areas the Vet will often need to touch, and I wanted her to be comfortable with someone touching her there. After that I threw on the leash and headed for the car.
Now, when I got to the Vet's office I did not go inside. And here's why, I wanted to take 10 minutes and walk around the block to help the dog relax and to calm my nerves a bit. Keep in mind this dog tried to attack the Vet during her last visit so I wasn't taking any chances. I let her do some sniffing and jogged for a bit. This helps associate a trip to the Vet's with positive things like exploring and exercise. Once inside I walked around the lobby and lead the dog to sniff her new surroundings. Then I sat her down next to me while we waited for our turn with the Vet. (Already this was a huge improvement. Priscilla told me that on her last visit the dog freaked out at everyone and every dog in the room. ie growling, lunging, snarling.)
Now it was time for the hard part, meeting the Vet. I decided to avoid talking to this dog when the Vet was working with her. Chances are if I would have tried to comfort her with my voice it would have triggered fearful memories of past visits. I wanted this dog to see that I was acting completely different. I let the Vet do his work, kept myself calm, and remembered not to pet her. A dog will pick up on whatever mood you are in so my calmness surely rubbed off on this dog.
And guess what? She did great. She even let the Vet take her temperature which they were unable to do before even though she was muzzled. Needless to say the Vet was stunned. He did a double take and asked me if this was the same dog? I assured him she was and we left.
Mission accomplished! I ended the visit with a 5 minute walk, some affection, and a treat. If you use even half of the ideas I just mentioned during your next visit to the Vet I promise you will see a huge difference. Your Vet will thank you for the stress free experience as well.
Best wishes to you and your pup,
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 28, 2009