Your dog is friendly, always up for a new adventure and loves attention. That is, he does until you arrive at the vet’s office. Even the friendliest, most well-behaved dogs can become whimpering and fearful when they reach the vet’s office. Other dogs suddenly become loud and uncooperative. In both cases, your dog is showing you he is anxious in the only way he knows how. You know the vet won’t harm him, but he doesn’t.
WHY THE VET CAUSES ANXIETY
Let’s look at this experience through your dog’s eyes. He is asked to enter an unfamiliar building that overwhelms his senses with the sounds and smells of unfamiliar animals. He is asked to get onto a table that is higher than he feels comfortable with and then is subject to being handled in an often unfamiliar manner by a stranger. If that weren’t enough, he can sense your anxiety as you worry about how things will play out with him. If his person is anxious then something horrible must be happening. You both give a sigh of relief when the visit ends.
Making Things Easier
Your dog’s vet visit does not have to be stressful. Here are some things you can do in advance that helps get him familiar with all that takes place during vet visit days and see it as a positive experience.
- -Car association – Many dogs only ride in a car when they go to a vet so they associate a ride with the visit and the anxiety starts before you even start. Get your dog used to going on rides that end up being fun. Take him to the local pet-friendly store and get him a treat. Take a ride that ends up with a play in the park. Have him associate a ride with fun.
- -Touch – The vet may touch your dog in ways he is unfamiliar with. From his earliest years, “practice” these exams by looking in his ears, handling his paws and giving him a full-body rub. Get him to consider touch as a happy thing that often ends with a treat or play time.
- -A familiar place – Don’t save a stop by the vet only for visits. When you have your dog out for a walk or ride, take a minute to stop by and say hello to the staff. Let him start associating the office with friendly pats and maybe a special treat.
- -Stay calm – The biggest thing you can do to help ease your dog’s anxiety is to stay calm yourself. He will pick up on any anxiety you have and think there is something wrong. This will then put him on alert. Let him know you are comfortable and in charge of the situation and he is safe.
Food is often associated with pleasure in the mind of your dog. It doesn’t hurt to have a special treat that is only given after a vet visit. This will give him something positive to look forward to when the visit is over.