Many pets are not fond of visiting the veterinary clinic. Let's face it. We poke, prod, handle every part of their body and then often stick them with needles. The same things happen to me when I go to the doctor. And while I like my doctor, I do not really like needing to go to see him. This is true even though I understand why the visit is needed.
This understanding is not something veterinary patients are capable of. Therefore, we must work with everything surrounding the visit to make it less stressful, more pleasant and safer for all involved in the appointment.
For dogs, this process starts with the owners:
Dogs are very perceptive of their owner's mood and stress. If the owner is stressed, the dog will also be stressed. Why should the owner of the new healthy puppy be stressed about a veterinary visit? The pup is not. By remaining calm, the dog is more likely to be calm. This same principle holds true for older dogs as well. A dog's fear of the veterinary clinic is learned, usually at a very young age.
Try to make the visits pleasurable. Bring a favorite toy or treats. Give attention/rewards when the dog is behaving calmly at the clinic. Remember that you and your attention is the best thing in the world for your dog and positive or negative attention is a reward. Because of this, people must be careful to avoid giving attention or trying to calm a nervous dog. This attention only reinforces the inappropriate behavior of being scared and increases the dog's stress.
Try to decrease the stress of the activities surrounding the visit. Help your dog get used to riding in the car. If it only gets in the car to go to the veterinary clinic, it will always be a less than stellar experience. Go for car rides with pleasant activities. These can include going to parks, family visits, going for walks in different areas, or just going for rides and getting treats. Even visits to the clinic for weight checks and treats can be very helpful. Most dogs can learn to enjoy car rides. The short trip from Hammond or New Richmond to Roberts should not be a source of stress.
Similarly, if a kennel is only used to go to the veterinary clinic, this will become an object of stress. Have the kennel out and open for the dog so it becomes a safe and familiar object. Most dogs learn to like their kennels. They become a place of safety where they can be comfortable. If your dog is transported to the clinic in a kennel, this should be like bringing a little piece of the safety of home with them.
As most dogs are not naturally comfortable with having all parts of their body handled, working with the dog/pup at home when they are calm and relaxed can make a world of difference. Handle the feet, mouth, ears, tail, belly, essentially the whole body. This works best when started with a young puppy.
Dogs interact with the world through their noses much more so than people. Certain scents, such as lavender or Dog Appeasing Hormone (DAP) can help calm them. While veterinary clinics cannot remove all the odors of other dogs and cats, disinfectants and medications in the clinic, regular good outcome visits can make these scents more familiar and less stressful.
Let's not forget about general socialization. For dogs the most important developmental period to be comfortable around other animals and people is between about 6 and 12 weeks of age. Getting young puppies out and about to learn that people can be fun, even strangers, will pay off for their entire life. This is one of the major reasons puppy kindergarten and puppy socialization classes are so important. These classes provide a great and safe location to get to see and visit with other puppies of the same age and people of all ages.
If your veterinarian suggests techniques to make the visit less stressful, please listen. There are dogs that respond much better to a man or a woman. Dr. Lindquist and Dr. Otto occasionally recommend that a pet see the other doctor for future visits because of this. Many dogs are very owner protective and do best with the owner out of sight or with a specific owner. There are many techniques that can be used. We much prefer to avoid the escalation of stress by placing a muzzle on the dog. Unfortunately, a muzzle sometimes becomes necessary for the safety of all involved in the visit, but we always feel it is an escalation and will only add to the future stress of the dog.
The real key is to start young and condition the dog that veterinary visits can be fun. Dogs do not understand that we are trying very hard to help them, keep them healthy and to avoid greater sickness and pain in the future. Dogs only know that they do not like what is happening in the moment.
The majority of what we do in the veterinary clinic qualifies as fairly benign and nothing for pets or owners to be particularly stressed about. Recognizing this fact and training owners and pets can make the visits much more pleasant for all involved. Most of these ideas are easy and can be quite fun.
At Bobtown Pet Clinic we use calm positive handling techniques. We use lots of tasty hot dog treats and positive attention to reward the appropriate behavior. Our hope is to make the visit as pleasant as possible so the dog remembers the good parts of the visit rather than the less pleasant aspects.
Here at Bobtown Pet Clinic we really want your pet to be healthy and comfortable coming here for visits. We must also make sure that you (our clients) and the clinic staff remain safe.
Preventive medicine saves many lives, keeps many diseases away, and detects many diseases early. Making pets comfortable coming here helps achieve this important goal.