Well, I was standing in the vets office this morning, trying to figure out what to write about this month, when the obvious hit me!! It is so interesting to think about how full of complex interactions this visit can be!! In most eventualities, the trip to the vet is simply routine; shots, tick meds, a nail-trim…no big problem. and no terrible thing happening to the dog in terms of great discomfort or distress…It is important however to consider the whole picture from the dog’s point of view.
This is not a place he visits frequently. It does not smell like someone’s home. He is going to sense some difference in your attitude and your behavior towards him is going to be much more focused. You may have to cross a parking lot or walk down an unfamiliar street. There may be all kinds of new people in the waiting area and he may have to be in close quarters with strangers, cats, small people and parrots! I will never forget taking my dog into a vet’s office a few years ago and encountering a python!! All in all, what seems like something pretty mundane can be filled with potential adventure and ALL kinds of new situations! There will hopefully never be a time when you have to take your dog into the vets for an emergency but if such a thing should happen, I would like to suggest some tips for those occasions as well. I always try to expect the worst!!! No, I am not being negative, its just that if I am overprepared, it is much easier to prevent additional disasters.
Lets start with a routine visit…
• Use an appropriate collar and leash. If your dog pulls like a bear regularly, he will probably pull like a bull in the vet’s office, where he is anxious! You do not want him rushing over to stick his nose in the face of another dog…remember this is a vet’s office and the chances are that the other dog may not be well. The other clients in the waiting area may be anxious or uncertain too. They may have smaller dogs, cats in crates or a sick squirrel that needs attention and the last thing they want to deal with is a pushy Golden Retriever, no matter how “friendly” he is. An effective collar will also help you control your dog should he decide to exit the building!! Yes, I have seen that many times!
• Try to enter the vet’s waiting area FIRST. This means, in front of your dog. That will allow you to assess the environment you are entering and make decisions about how to handle any potential situation.
• Give the other clients in the waiting area SPACE. For the obvious reasons and do NOT allow your dog to approach or touch noses with other patients.
• Try not to encourage anxious behavior, whining, pacing, over barking by rewarding your dog with loving, sweet words and lots of touching. The best way to reassure your dog is to take control of your anxiety and keep your body and voice nice and calm. Try not to put more pressure on the dog by focusing on him. Stop talking and sit quietly. Do not allow him lots of leash to move around but do not keep a stranglehold on his neck. A gentle correction will draw his attention to the fact that you would like him to stay still and then relax and let him find a comfortable place beside you. You do NOT have to put your German Shepherd on your lap!
• When your name is called, quietly gather up your leash and move towards the consulting room you are shown. Again, you go first. If your dog is reluctant to go with you, an upbeat “Lets Go!” accompanied by a quick, light tug on his collar should do the trick. Do NOT drag your dog along the floor
• Once in the cubicle, take your lead from the Vet. She will tell you what to do and how she would like you to help. She will not enjoy having to peel you from your dog in an attempt to examine him. If, at this point, you know that your dog can be defensive or nippy, PLEASE inform the Vet in the least dramatic way possible, BEFORE she reaches her hand towards your friend. And if your dog should react in an unpleasant way, do not feel you have to make explanations or excuses for his behavior. Allow the vet to take any precautions she needs to keep herself safe. Remember, she has twenty five more patients to see that day and she needs to have all her digits intact!
• Although every Vet understands that you know your dog best, please allow her to use the EIGHT years of education and the many years of on-the-job training to form her best professional opinion. She will do a better job if she feels you trust her and then your dog will feel he can trust her too.
IF you have to be at the Vet in an emergency…
All of the above cautions apply but more so!
You will have called ahead to let the office know you are coming in and the nature of your visit. If there is trauma or blood, try to keep your animal as quiet and contained as possible. A crate perhaps for a medium or small dog and if the dog is large, a big towel to wrap around him. If the dog is unable to walk and too large to carry, ask for help from the staff to transport him in and STEP ASIDE once they are in charge. The faster your Vet gets involved, the better for your dog, so try not to get in the way. Ask what you can do and then try to let the Professionals do their job…best advice for trauma…BREATHE. I have been there.
OK last but not least, take your dog to the vet early and often when there is absolutely nothing wrong!! Most vets are more than happy to have a visit with your dog, just to say “Hallo” as long as its not in the rush hour!! Call ahead and ask when a good time would be. Make it fun and then it won’t be such a scary event when its time to go for a more serious reason. And remember to take your Vet cookies sometimes for no reason at all…it’s nice to be remembered for when you are not a twitching mess on the other end of your distressed dog’s leash!!!
*Featured photo above: Dr. Angie Clarke of Alderson Veterinary Hospital, treats a Beagle client with her young owner “helping”
– Janine Lazarus w/ Goodladd Dog Training, Hashtag #91. July 2017