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My Dog Is Afraid of The Vet: 6 Tips That Work

Photo by: drsophiayin.com

Photo by: drsophiayin.com

This is extremely common. Most dogs are afraid of the vet and this happens due to a number of reasons. Unfortunately, the vast majority of veterinarian professionals have had little or no education on dog behavior. As a consequence, they fail to notice the subtle signs of fear and stress that end up escalating into aggression a few months later. Everything starts to fall apart right at the first visit, when the dog is still a young puppy. The first time he goes to the vet, he feels scared and uncomfortable; then, he is taken into a room where a strange person touches him and invades his personal space. That weird person places a thermometer in his booty, opens his mouth, grabs his ears and, in the end, stabs a needle into his skin! By the time the puppy is leaving, he already hates the vet. I mean, who wouldn’t?

dog anxiety treats

There are a few things veterinary professionals (and owners, as well) can do to help minimize the stress and create a few positive associations.

  • Never leave the house without a treat pouch filled with yummy treats. Since the vet is a very stressful environment, you may need to use the “heavy stuff”, such as sausage, chicken or dried liver. Feed your dog those treats throughout the visit, from the waiting room to the examination room.
  • Don’t drag your dog into the scale. If he’s uncomfortable with it, try to lure him with a piece of food and, once he’s in there, offer him plenty of rewards. Also, if you’re familiar with these concepts, you can use targeting or even shaping to get your dog to go to the scale. Make sure you train him at home first. Make it a game!
  • Keep your dog on leash at all times, even if he’s the friendliest dog in the world. If your dog decides to run towards an unfamiliar dog who is already feeling scared and stressed, he may need to defend himself. Besides, if those other dogs are at the vet, they’re probably ill. Let’s actively prevent accidents from happening, shall we?
  • During the consultation, offer your dog some treats. Do this whilst he’s being examined and especially during the administration of medication. Remember: the rewards should be given during and immediately after the medical procedures, never before. This well help your dog to create positive associations with the entire process.
  • Choose the veterinary professionals wisely! If you have the chance, make sure you opt for a Low Stress Handling certified clinic or hospital. Those professionals will know how to minimize the stress and will certainly respect your dog’s emotional and behavioral health.
  • Take your dog to the vet, even if he’s not sick. You can go there, feed him a few treats and ask the staff to do the same. After a few minutes of pure fun, you may leave. These pleasant visits will certainly help reduce your dog’s fear.

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Marilia Domingos
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