For a lot of dogs the basic things involved in an exam, even a routine one, can seem scary not because they are out of the ordinary for them. They usually only go a few times a year, and when they do, they get poked, prodded, and stuck with a needle. But vet visits aren’t optional, so try these simple at-home exercises and tips to make your dog’s future vet visits stress free.
Most dogs and cats have trouble being examined mouth (teeth) and paws (nails). Your goal is to change your dog’s emotional response with desensitization and counterconditioning. Start with simple handling exercises. Add massage into your daily interactions, preferably when your dog is tired. Include the paws, ears, mouth, belly, and tail to simulate a vet’s exam. Include lots of praise and treats so your dog learns to associate handling with rewards.
There are other training exercises that will come in handy at the vet’s office, too. The first is to teach your dog a standing position. It’s easy to teach with lure and reward training. Teaching the behavior builds strong positive associations between the mat and rewards, which makes the mat your dog’s happy place. If you take the mat to the vet visit it will provide your dog with a comforting and familiar place to stand or lie down.
Visiting the vet just for to say hi is another good idea. During one of your car rides, you might want to stop by the vet’s office for a social call. When your pet realizes that a trip to the vet can be an enjoyable experience, he or she might not be quite so reluctant to get out of the car the next time you visit. It will seem like just another fun outing.
Also, try pheromones, which are natural chemicals produced by the body. It can calm your cat or dog and make him or her feel less anxious or fearful. For best results, plug in the diffuser an hour or two before your pet’s veterinarian visit. Although pheromones aren’t effective for every pet, they’re worth a try if veterinary visits are difficult for your furry friend.