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Turning Vet Visits into a Positive

We all know that for some dogs, coming to the vet is not their favourite activity.  There are ways to try and reduce the anxiety level and negative associations with the clinic.

For many dogs the anxiety they feel stems from the negative association they have formed.  This makes sense as most dogs only come to the vet when something is wrong or they are due for a vaccination.  These dogs have come to associate the vet with experiences they view as negative such as nail trims, ear cleanings, vaccinations and taking blood samples.  Over time this experience becomes rooted in their brain and they become anxious even if nothing is being done to them at that visit.  Thankfully we can do things to create a more positive emotional response.  We create positive experiences to have ‘happy visits’ where only good things shall happen. 

 This can be by providing treats, toys, or attention from staff.  Owners can also be encouraged to bring their dogs favourite toy or blanket into the clinic with them.  Over time, having positive experiences helps block out the negatives of past visits.  We can turn some treatments into play-dates, which makes the dog eager to visit the following time and come in with a happy disposition. 

Dogs that have attended vet run Puppy School classes have the added benefit of establishing a different relationship with the vet practice early on.  They can associate this with socializing with a place of play and treats.  For many dogs, the way to their heart is truly through their stomach.  Being offered a treat is like going to the lolly aisle, it leaves good memories.  It is also productive to give owners some homework. If families can incorporate handling their pets feet, raising their ear flaps and general touching within their play routine, the animal is calmer and more familiar with the routine when it is done for medical reasons.

If an anxious dog needs to sit in the waiting room the stress gets progressively worse.  It is normally a better option to encourage the owners to wait in the car, wander around the car park or on the grassed area until the Vet is ready to see them.

The calmer everyone is, including owner’s anxiety, will make for a more pleasant experience for dog, owner, and staff.