Teaching Your Dog to Be a Better Vet Patient

Let’s face it, not all dogs enjoy going to the vet. It is important that you begin teaching your new dog how to be a good vet patient and that you create a positive association with the vet’s office. During her long life, she will be poked, prodded and pinched. She will have her ears cleaned, temperature taken, blood samples drawn and nails trimmed. She will need to learn how to be held still and tolerate being handled.

If you start in the very beginning, your dog will learn that being handled is just a part of life. You will have a patient your vet looks forward to seeing.

When you bring your new puppy home, immediately begin playing with your puppy’s ears, tail, toes, feet and mouth. Each time she allows you to handle her without mouthing you or pulling away, reward with a yummy treat. This can be done with older dogs as well, though it may take a bit longer if there is a negative association to touch.

Begin trimming your puppy’s nails the first day you bring her home. Have another family member reward the puppy while you handle each toe and trim each nail. Keep a constant reward coming until you are finished with all the nails.

Be sure to hold your puppy in your arms and do not let her down until she stops squirming. Do not acknowledge the puppy if she is whining or squirming. You may reward with a treat or just let her down when she is still. She needs to learn that while being held, she shouldn’t squirm to get up. This is very important for small breeds that are being held often. It is easy for them to fall out of arms and injure themselves. More importantly, teaching large dogs to be still during treatment will make it easier on the veterinarian and veterinarian assistants.

While at the vet, verbally reward your dog when he is calm and displaying appropriate behavior. Treat or pet your dog if it does not disrupt treatment.  If your dog snaps or bites at hands, be sure to muzzle your dog.  This will not only keep staff safe, it will also allow staff to not react, showing your dog biting does not earn a reward (i.e. the ear cleaning doesn’t stop).

If your dog must be sedated prior to vet visits, or acts aggressively toward your vet and staff, contact a positive dog trainer who can help evaluate the situation. A professional may be able to help the underlying confidence issues and negative associations that warrant the sedation in the first place.