Raising a Puppy That Loves the Vet
Another successful vet visit for Cuba last week. My once roly-poly puppy is now maturing into a little man. At four months old, he weighs 42 pounds! He was wonderful at the vet, and tremendously excited to see his favorite kitty friends especially. He really likes four week old "Little Man," who is not terribly interested in him, but his favorite kitty pal at the vet's office is actually Sedgie, a lovely young cat who really needs to find a home that wants to clicker train her - this girl loves treats and was targeting my hand in less than five clicks!
My vet is a fantastic lady and a close colleague of mine. She, the staff, and I frequently joke, "what are we going to do about this puppy's anxiety?" as Cuba snores happily while having his temperature taken. Cuba loves visits to the vet's office! Here are some things you can do to help your dog love the vet too!
- Fun visits - I think this is one of the best things you can do to train your puppy to like the vet. Bring your puppy to the vet A LOT when no medical procedures are necessary. Stop in, do a little training, give your dog some treats, have the staff give him some treats, and get out of there. Ask your veterinarian when a good time would be to plan your fun visits. If your vet won't allow you to do fun visits, find a new vet. Trust me, it's easier to find a good vet than it will be to "fix" your dog's vet phobia once it's started - your trainer may be able to refer you to a good veterinarian in the area.
- Bring lots of yummy stuff - Don't be a stooge at the vet's - bring out the big guns. Cuba got meatballs today, a bit of bacon, and some Red Barn Chicken & Liver Roll. I admit the bacon was a bit of a one-off, he usually only gets that during emergency recall practice!
- Tire him out first - Last night, Cuba had a fantastic time at the classroom playing with his "bestie Westie", a West Highland White Terrier adolescent female named McKenzie. He was still sleeping off his play hangover today, which left him nice and mellow at the vet's office.
- Get there early - it's not a race! Cuba was a little hesitant to get on the scale today, but since I got there early I did not feel rushed and was able to take the 90 seconds needed to train him to get on the scale himself. Much less stressful for both of us than me forcing him on the scale.
- Choose your vet wisely - select a vet who supports positive reinforcement handling techniques and keeps up to date on developments in animal behavior. Your vet should support the use of positive reinforcement to build comfort at the vet's office and should not have the, "get 'em in and out as quickly as possible, no matter what it takes" mentality.
- Bring him hungry - I knew we had a lunch time appointment today, so Cuba didn't have breakfast breakfast this morning. I gave him some treats when we were at the classroom, and let him have a small "brunch" when he got home. He was more than happy to work for my yummy treats, but may not have been if his belly were full at our appointment.
- It's a party! - The whole time we're at the vet, it's a party. The vet walks into the room and I get ridiculous, "YAY, Cubie! It's Dr. B!" (who is laughing and rolling her eyes just a bit) Treats are raining from the sky. It's amazing, if you're a puppy. The vet sticks a needle in your shoulder? Click, bacon! Yeah, that's right - I look like an idiot. We roll on the floor together, I pant happily with him, finish up with a play bow and a game of tug. We play lots of party games at the vet's - find the bully stick, sometimes play with a Kong or food puzzle toy, targeting games, etc.
- Do "vetty" stuff at home - I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually thinking about purchasing a pair of scrubs. I'll wear my scrubs proudly to class to teach the dogs that scrubs don't always mean scary stuff. Sometimes it's just a dog-crazy lady with amazing treats! I "play vet" with Cuba at home all the time - poke him in the side, click as my finger makes contact, give a yummy treat. Examine his eye, click, treat. Pick up lift to show the teeth, click, treat.
- Bring a mat - have I mentioned that "go settle on a mat" is one of the best behaviors on the planet for a pet dog? I should have followed my own advice today - Cuba didn't want to get on the scale and I know if I had put his mat on the scale, zeroed the scale out, and cued "go to bed" he would happily have laid on the mat. No problem, since we were able to shape the behavior of getting on the scale rather quickly, but a mat would have saved us this step and given Cuba a place to relax while we waited our turn in the examination room.
- Keep him busy! When you are waiting for the vet to arrive, keep your puppy busy with training or toys. He'll be having too much fun with you to get concerned about being at the vet's office!
Do you have more tips? Please share in the comments!