Top Five Things To Teach Your Dog That Will Improve Their Visits at the Vet's Office
By Colleen S Koch, DVM, KPA CTP
Bringing your pup into the vet clinic
doesn't have to be a scary thing. When pups come into our clinic we
want them to leave in a better emotional state than when they came in.
Our ultimate goal is to have adult dogs that drag their owner in,
instead of having the owner drag their dog in. Overall we have been
pretty successful over the last 20 years. Most of the dogs that started
out as pups at our clinic, do drag their owners into the clinic.
There are things that you can do to help
make your pup or dog's experience even better. By working with your pup
on these simple behaviors their experience at the vet clinic should be
like a walk in the park, instead of a drag down misery lane.
Top five things you can teach your dog to increase his enjoyment at veterinary visits:
1) Touch- a simple thing
that is so important. Of course everyone touches their pups and loves to
hug and hold them. It is important that your dog is comfortable being
touched anywhere and everywhere. Yes, everywhere that includes the
unspeakable places such as under the tail. Bottom line is if they lick
it or scratch it in public it is fair game for us to touch it.
We will also need to examine and touch
their eyes, ears, toes/nails, tail, and mouth including opening it up
and looking in. These are often sensitive as well as common problem
areas where we need to administer medicine. If your pup is used to
being touched in these places then the exam should not be frightening
for them. If they are painful or having problems and they are already
comfortable with people touching these areas it is a lot easier on
everyone. Otherwise it will require us to teach them to allow us to
touch them while they are painful; this can be a very challenging task
for us and very frightening for the pup.
Handling by strangers, taking treats and
letting them hold your pup, helps to socialize them. 20 cookies by 20
strangers before 20 weeks of age, is a good rule of thumb.
Tight hugs should mean good things. Hugs
are not natural for dogs; in case you didn't notice dogs don't hug other
dogs. Hugging is a human thing. Most of the time in our clinic we try
to minimize restraint as much as possible. Occasionally there are times
when we will need to hold your dog tight for a certain procedure.
Teaching your dog to be comfortable with this in advance will reduce his
stress during the procedure.
2) Stand still- sounds easy, but for some pups, I think they'd rather have their teeth pulled!
Many times when doing an exam I like the
dog to be in the standing position. It also enables me to look for
structural discomfort as well as see and feel abnormalities from left to
right. Standing still also makes it easier for you to apply topical
medications on your dog's back. This very easy trick helps during bath
time, attaching a leash, grooming and when you stop to chat with a
friend on a walk.
3) Down positions - seems like a like a silly thing, but it too has a lot of applications.
Ideally all three variations of down- left
side down and right side down and belly up. Hopefully you will never
have to have your dog in any of these positions but if you do they will
be more comfortable. It is much easier to look for ticks, fleas, sores,
take radiographs (x-rays), trim toe nails and groom.
Asking your pup for the down position can
be very scary in a strange place. However if your dog thinks of this as
fun trick they will be more willing to perform it in a vet clinic.
4) Clicker trained dogs make everyone?s life easier.
Clicker trained dogs know that a click= what you want. If I need your
dog to do something, and I am not able to communicate adequately,
because they are afraid, or painful, it is frustrating for all. With a
clicker trained dog, all I have to do is click and they instantly go "OOOOOHHHH OK now I understand what you want!"
5) Hand target with nose. This is a really easy trick to train that has many applications.
If dogs know how to hand target it helps us
to move them around the clinic; on scales, into kennels, from one
kennel to another, and makes them more comfortable in stressful
It is much easier to apply Elizabethan
collars as well as put on muzzles if your dog knows how to target. Dogs
that know how to hand target can be easily distracted by the "trick"
during uncomfortable situations, or moving past another "scary" dog or
thing. You can also use this to help your dog learn to stand still,
for any purpose.
This originally appeared in Dr. Colleen's guest blog on Dogster