Many dogs (and owners) get nervous about a trip to the vet. The new smells and scary shots can cause a lot of anxiety. A smart dog owner can use training to make the vet visit more pleasant for both dog and human. So what behaviors should you teach your dog? These nine “tricks” can make a vet visit easier for you, your dog, and the vet!
Some small dogs are better off in a crate during their vet visit. It gives them a sense of security, and keeps them safe from any large, rude dogs in the waiting room. Crate training your dog is also a fantastic idea for emergency preparedness.
Step Up or On/Off
The metal exam table in most vets’ offices is not a surface most dogs are familiar with. It’s cold and slippery and makes weird noises! If you think your dog might be nervous, you can do some work ahead of time to teach them to step up onto a scale or exam table. The blog Canines in Action has a great video on the steps you can take to train this behavior.
Many routine vet exams include an overall body condition check, which means the vet will be running their hands over your dog’s body. Train the dog to stand still and tolerate some pushing on the abdomen or an arm reaching over his back.
Lay Down (Side)
This is another body position option for ease of examination.
Train your dog to place his chin in your hand at keep his head still for eye, ear, and nose examinations.
Your dog should allow a blunt object to be gently placed in the ear. Dogs with floppy ears, like our Newfoundland, also need regular ear cleaning at home, and training your dog to calmly accept this will make your life easier.
At the very least, you can desensitize your dog to a teeth check. A smart, motivated dog can also be taught to open his own mouth for vet checks! Added to this could be a “tongue” behavior, in which your dog sticks his tongue out to make it easier to look down the throat.
This is a behavior you should already be working on for nail clipping, but it is also extremely useful for vet visits.
All dogs are going to need vaccinations through out their lives, and some dogs will need many more injections. A friend of mine had a dog with diabetes who needed insulin injections. She trained her dog to accept the shot without fuss, by pairing the shot with an extra-special treat. Advanced trainers and dogs can also work on voluntary blood draws, if this is something the dog may need for future health concerns.
While a trip to the vet might not be your dog’s favorite outing, you can use your training skills to make it at least a tolerable experience. Talk to your vet about what behaviors she may recommend to make your visits more efficient and fun.
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