Vet Visit Training Tip Series
Making the experience of visiting your vet easier on your dog!
Tip 1: Handling
Being handled, especially ‘examined’ by a Vet, is something that we need to proactively teach our dogs to be comfortable with. We need to build up their comfort level and confidence so that your dog feels comfortable.
First off, play lots of little sessions of close proximity. Is your dog happy simply being close to you? Sit on the floor with some food ready to go and feed your dog for climbing on your lap, for going underneath your legs and for generally being close.
Once they are super comfortable with close proximity, introduce your hands. Start with gentle strokes along your dog’s body, feeding them as you are doing it. If at any time your dog moves away, let them, don’t force them to sit there and ‘take it’. Build these sessions gradually and do short sessions daily.
Once your dog is happy with being touched, then start to handle your dog the way a vet would. Touch your dog’s ears and check inside, check their teeth and have a look in their mouth, touch toes, tail, check eyes, all the while calmly feeding as you go.
The importance in handling is compliance from your dog. If at any time during any of the stages your dog is giving signals that they have had enough, leave the session there and re-visit at another time.
Tip 2: Visit when you don’t need to!
If you think about it, visiting the vet for a reason often leads to some level of worry or discomfort for your dog – it is unavoidable. If you only ever take your dog to the vet when something needs to be done, the event becomes a predictor of something negative.
This leads to your dog having a negative association before they have even stepped foot inside the clinic, even travelling to the vet may set off their worry and anxiety of the prediction of things that are to come.
So, go when you don’t need to! Take your dog in, play a few easy-win training games, sit in the waiting room a little while, pop them on the scales, ask the lovely receptionists to say hello and then leave.
Make visiting the vet an unpredictable event!
Tip 3: Play the CONE GAME!
If you haven’t already seen or played the cone game, you really should give this one a go! The aim of the cone game is to grow, enhance and develop the concept of confidence in our dogs. This in itself is going to help your dog with vet visits – a dog who is confident is better able to deal with challenging situations. Did you know that the cone game can also be transferred to other objects?
In relation to and thinking specifically about the vets, you can transfer the cone game to a muzzle and an Elizabethan collar. These two objects are sometimes needed, and rather than wait until they are needed, proactively train your dog to be cool about wearing them! Check out the video of one of my puppy class students playing this game! Its so much fun!
Do you want to learn the cone game? Today I am giving you access to a completely FREE eBook from Absolute Dogs and the very first game explained is the CONE GAME! Enjoy! Hit the link below:
Tip 4: Grow and Keep Growing Confidence & Optimism
I talk about this one a lot! In fact, growing, enhancing and developing confidence & optimism is up there as one of the top concepts to focus on in your dog training. An optimistic and confident dog is OK with novelty, they OK with change, they are flexible and resilient. Vet visits are novel events, right?! You don’t go every single day! Let’s arm our dogs with the skills to deal with novelty!
To grow optimism and confidence there are lots of fun and creative games! Here’s some confidence games that you can play with your dog today:
- Eating from a noisy box (a great use for safe recycling materials!)
- Walking on something that makes a sound
- Walking on something that moves or wobbles
- Putting one, two, three, four paws on something
- Pushing over cans
- Nose touching a bell
- Crawling under your legs (sit on the floor for this one!)
- Climbing inside a rubbish bin
- Exploring a paddling pool filled with water
- The cone game (mentioned yesterday!)
…I could go on!!
The art with building confidence and optimism is to get creative and to never simply play the same games all of the time. Switch it up, change it, think outside the box!
About the Author: Kelly Murrell helps out with some of the work in the office at Devon Dogs, particularly with marketing and advertising. She used to work in the office at East Bowerland Farm, but recently moved to Vancouver Island, Canada with her husband. She is an avid dog trainer and regularly posts dog training tips for Devon Dogs, Bowerland and Progressive Paws.