In my work as a canine behaviourist I am often asked to help owners with dogs who dislike going to the vets many of these dogs display aggression and are extremely stressed. Usually I find the origins of the problem lie in an unpleasant or frightening experience whilst the dog is a puppy. Unfortunately when most pups first encounter the vets its for something unpleasant ,their inoculations, however we can help make sure these vital early visits are done in a relaxed manner .By having good preparation and groundwork we can almost ensure that our puppy has a positive experience .There are a number of techniques you can use which can really help your pup particularly when they are having their physical examination and also their vaccination . Things which can make a pup feel uneasy and contribute to the problem are: being examined and handled in a way they are unaccustomed to further impacted by the person doing this being unfamiliar, the puppy picking up on their owner feeling anxious , the owner inadvertently rewarding nervous behaviour and the new strange environment of the vet surgery.
Things you can do to prepare your puppy before the visit- paving the way to success:
Get puppy used to travelling in the car
Puppies tend to have their first inoculation when they are 8 weeks old and again at 10 weeks. As puppy is so young many have not had much experience travelling in a vehicle so can arrive at the vets not feeling happy particularly if they suffer from motion sickness, so it is a good idea to get your puppy familiar with travelling in the car for short journeys before hand.
Get puppy used to being picked up and carried
Puppies are notoriously wrigglerly and need to be taught how to be relaxed and calm whilst being picked up and carried. It is important to hold puppy in the correct way so he feels secure and safe.
Get puppy used to sitting on your knee relaxed
When you get to the vets it is likely that you will have to wait with your puppy for a period of time in the reception area. Remember most animals go to the vets because they are ill which makes this area a potential risk to your unvaccinated puppy ,so its important to minimise the chances of him picking up an infection by ensuring he does not have any contact with any of the other animals and you should definitely keep him on your knee and not put him on the floor at any time.
Puppies have short attention spans and get bored easily so it is a good idea to give him something to occupy himself with, I find a kong stuffed with puppy Natural Instinct ideal for this.
Get puppy used to standing on a table
Once in the examination room the vet will want you to place pup on the examination table, something which can be quite scary. To prevent this you can, at home practice standing puppy on a secure non slip table to simulate this , when you do this again a kong stuffed with Natural Instinct can be useful or you can feed high value treats such as beef jerky, from your hand. Start practicing for short periods building up the length of time gradually. Once your puppy is doing well you can progress by teaching him to remain calm and still whilst you run your hands over his body. Start off for short periods rewarding frequently when he does well.
Get puppy used to being examined
Your vet will need to give your puppy a thorough physical examination to ensure he is in good health prior to vaccinating him. This will involve him looking at your puppy’s eyes, ears, gums, throat, paws and feeling his abdomen. He will also weigh him, listen to your puppy’s heart and take his temperature.
You can easily prepare puppy at home by practicing initially with yourself looking at his eyes, ears, gums, throat and paws then once your puppy is confident , relaxed and happy with you it would be an advantage if other members of the family and friends could repeat the procedure under your guidance and supervision