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Better Vet Visits

Better Vet Visits

You’d like your dog to be the one your vet loves most. After all, he’s the cutest dog on the planet and so sweet with you! Your vet would love if Milo would walk right in, wagging his tail, and stand still for exams, and for Milo not to be bothered that his mom isn’t with him in the back room and for him to give all the techs kisses.

Your dog would love you to keep him company at the vet and give him high-value treats while strangers feel him up. And sometimes that happens–unless there is a pandemic. Some dogs actually do better without their own human’s nervous energy around them so COVID hasn’t been much of an issue for those dogs at the vet. Hopefully the people at the vet’s office handle your pup kindly and don’t tug on the leash and give treats while loving on them. You can help everyone involved by training a few behaviors so well that, even if there is stress, Milo is absolutely cooperative and even helpful.

How about three or four practice visits to the vet when your dog doesn’t even need to be there? Getting Milo used to walking right in the office door and maybe hanging out and then going home while getting cookies can absolutely lessen unfamiliarity with the weird smells and vibes. And even if your vet is still not having humans join pets for the exams, you should absolutely feed high-value treats before and after the visit.

Are you handling your dog at home?? Some dogs can’t stand having their feet touched or their tail lifted. Try a few rounds with lots of treats, working slowly. We can’t expect dogs to enjoy strangers looking at their teeth if their own humans can’t do it at home: desensitization and classical conditioning = food food food.

Every dog should STAND on all four paws on cue–and STAY in that position. The tech needs to get in a thermometer, and if Milo keeps sitting instead, that’s tough. That’s also useful at home for wiping paws and brushing hind quarters. Your dog should DOWN on cue, too, so he relaxes on the table to make the exam easier. Milo would love to learn RELAX on his side. Try manipulating a ninety-pound dog in a strange environment so the vet can look at sutures on his belly! If he lies on his side on cue, the doctor can see clearly. Teaching Milo TABLE can get him used to being on a scale and then STAY will get an accurate weight. PAWS UP can help a tall dog show under his chest better. I name my dog’s parts, too, so he’s not surprised when I want to look in his eye.

I wish your dog perfect health always, but having solid cues will help you at home, too. You will have to handle injuries and med delivery. If your dog is suddenly bleeding, he has to trust you to hold that paw and apply pressure. Do you have a doggie first aid kit? Do you know doggie (and kitty) first aid? There are easy online workshops. You should also examine your dog regularly to spot problems before they are big ones. Your dog can learn whatever you want him to know, so let’s get Milo smarter before the veterinarian needs him to be uber cooperative.

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