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Local Woof: Vet Visit Etiquette and Training

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The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

A few weeks ago, Clarendon Animal Care wrote a great article with tips for a great vet visit. You can read it here.

Having been to the vet several times in the past weeks, their article got me thinking about the training and behavioral aspects of a successful vet visit. There are lots of things you can do to teach your dog that GOOD things happen at the vets office.

First, like the Healthy Paws article said, be on time. Going to the vet is stressful for most dogs. If you are stressed because you are running late, two things happen. First, your dog will feed off of your stress and it will make them feel worse. Second, if you are rushing, you will not be able to keep your focus on your dog. The best thing you can do is to be calm and reassuring. The calmer and more attentive you are, the better your dog will feel.

Bring GREAT treats. Sitting in the lobby is a great opportunity to reinforce good manners such as voluntary attention, sit, down and touch. If your dog knows tricks, start showing off. Not only will you get some great practice in, it will give your dog something to do and be rewarded for. You always want your dog looking at you. Staring at, or being stared at, by other pets increases stress and arousal and can result in altercations or an unmanageable dog. Keep your dog busy and focused on you.

NEVER allow your dog to wander into another animal’s space. Most waiting areas are very small so this is going to require you to keep a very short leash. Be prepared for this. Your dog should always be right at your side.

Remember, not all dogs are friendly with other dogs. And dogs might be sick or injured, making them feel less social than they normally would be. With smaller animals, the last thing a crated cat needs is a large predator coming up to their crate when they can’t get away. Remember, it DOES NOT MATTER how friendly your dog is. This is about respecting the personal space of the other animals. Always always ask before you allow your dog to meet other animals in the lobby.

You can absolutely train your dog to be an active and willing participant in their health care. If zoo keepers can train a giraffe to participate in blood draws and x-rays, we can certainly teach our dogs to voluntarily stand still when the vet listens to their heart, checks their ears and takes blood. Talk to you trainer about how to teach your dog to choose to participate. Dogs that participate do not need to be restrained or sedated as often.

Regular vet visits are an important part of your dogs health care and the more you do to make them comfortable for your dog, the easier it will be to take good care of them. Let your trainer help make vet visits as positive as possible for you and your dog.

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