Not ALL dogs are scared of vets, but not many of them like going there. So why are they scared, and what should you do if your is?
The fact of the matter is that vet surgeries aren’t a very nice place for a dog. Their first sense is smell. A vet will smell to them of a number of different unknown chemicals, it will smell of illness and death. It smells of the fear hormones of other dogs who’ve been there earlier. So as soon as they walk through the door there is reason not to want to stay.
In the waiting room they may encounter other fearful dogs. The dog may express it’s fear by barking, or give a warning look or posture, further heightening the situation for your dog. Then we humanise the situation and try to “reassure” our dogs that everything is okay. They don’t understand our words, so for all they know we are saying “I hate this place, it’s so scary, what will happen to us, will you protect me?”…
On this note, I often work with dogs who have bitten or attempted to bite the vet or vet nurse through fear, and self defence and defence of their owner! Plus once a dog has had ONE unpleasant experience at the vets, they are then imprinted with the memory of that situation and will assume the same will happen again every time following, unless you can show them something different.
So this is where you step in. To help your dog to feel matter of fact about the vets then you must handle it in a matter of fact way yourself. The easiest time to do this is when you have absolutely no need to go to the vets whatsoever! Make it a habit, every couple of weeks or so to pop into your vets in a matter of fact way. Walking calmly through the door, sitting in a seat for a few moments, then leaving again calmly. When you are in there you can make a positive association. Asking your dog to sit for a treat for example, or taking them onto the weighing scales (like the ones pictured) and praising and treating them when they get up there on request. The more you show them that the vets can be a calm and pleasant experience, the more they will trust your decision to take them there.
If your dog is at the more extreme end of the scale you would probably benefit from some one to one help. I can highly recommend getting a Dog Listener to help you. I am one, based in Essex and covering Essex and the surrounding area. If that is not convenient, then go to this link HERE and type in your postcode to find the contact details of the nearest Dog Listener to you. We can also help with other dog behaviour related problems and general dog training enquiries.