How does your dog feel when you look in their ears or put your fingers in their mouth? How do they react when you lift their tail? These are only some of the things your pet will experience during a physical exam by their veterinarian.
One way to reduce your pet’s stress or anxiety about the vet is to practice a physical exam at home! Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, you can practice performing a physical exam to help them get more comfortable.
Here is a list of things you should work on with your dog:
Although your pet may tolerate these things, many pets will not be pleased about them. If they only tolerate you doing these things, they are going to be even less impressed when an almost stranger does it to them!
Today we will share a variety of how to videos to help you get started with your dog’s problem areas when it comes to handling, veterinary visits, or grooming procedures.
To get your pet used to all of these things you need to start slow. Break each piece down into very small steps and use something your dog loves to reward them for their good behaviour. Here is an example of practicing each piece of the veterinary exam with a dog you can tell has been practicing for a while: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vg4F7tR-EQ
A few common parts of the exam that many pets are shy about are having their mouths examined and their feet touched or nails clipped.
Here is a video by Dr. Sophia Yin on getting a dog to accept having their nails trimmed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWZUcLfHXLE It often takes many weeks of daily training to get a dog to fully cooperate with some of these handling procedures, especially if they are nervous to start with.
Handling a pet’s mouth is something many pet parents don’t do on a regular basis. If you are able to work with your pet it can make oral exams much less stressful for your pet, and it will make things like regular tooth brushing at home more manageable if your pet is prone to dental disease. We’ll go over this one step-by-step on how to get your pet to accept mouth exams and tooth brushing.
Have an idea of how it will be easiest for you to hold your dog’s mouth while you brush their teeth. For most right-handed people, you will want to hold the muzzle with your left hand and brush with your right hand. Some people prefer to hold under their dog’s chin, while others prefer to cup their dog’s upper jaw over the bridge of their nose.
If your dog becomes uncomfortable or pulls away at any point, you have progressed too quickly and need to go back a step and take it more slowly next time.
Another option for getting a dog to tolerate handling procedures is to teach them an alternate behaviour. Some dogs can be taught a chin target to their owner’s lap or a hand target to maintain during an injection. This is a more complex behaviour to hold in an environment that is likely stressful to a dog. But similarly, alternate behaviours can be taught for the remainder of the physical exam, or in the case with this video for tolerating being groomed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xugE8cHgpXg By learning to nose target, these dogs are able to focus on something other than being brushed.
For dogs who continue to be fearful or reactive in the vet clinic or even in public, teaching them to be comfortable wearing a basket muzzle is important for their safety and for the safety of those around them. Here is a great video to teach a dog how to accept wearing a basket muzzle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FABgZTFvHo
We always welcome our patients to stop by even on days when they don't have to see the doctor. If your pet is afraid of visiting the vet, stop by so we can give them a treat and some loving, then they can head on their way after a fun and positive visit. It can make a huge difference for their next appointment!