by Mayno Blanding
Visiting the veterinarian: I have never had a dog that loved to go to the veterinarian past the first couple of times. There are some things you can do, however, to help your BF deal with it. First and most important, don’t speak kind soothing words of reassurance to Fluffy to get her to calm down. A dog thinks this is praise. Fluffy thinks that when she shivers and shakes, she is doing exactly what you want her to do – be scared to death. Instead, be a little tough. Act very matter-of-factly about the whole thing. This is a fun trip! We LOVE the vet.
Sometimes it helps to give her a job to do in the waiting room by commanding her to sit or shake hands or whatever else she already knows well. Have a delicious treat and lots of praise to give her for performing correctly. Introduce her to the receptionists, the technicians, and other people in the waiting area, by inviting them to pet her and give her a treat. (Keep her away from the other dogs, however.)
You might want to take a brush along and run it over her just to keep her busy and her mind occupied. Grooming may have a soothing effect if it is something she likes when she’s at home.
Sometimes less is more. Try putting Fluffy in a down/stay next to you on the bench in the waiting room while you work on a crossword puzzle or read a magazine. She will think your attention is elsewhere, and it will give her a job to do that can occasionally be rewarded with an absent-minded “good dog” and a pat. If she doesn’t settle down, you can keep her busy by changing from a down to a sit and back every few minutes followed by immediate “absent-minded” praise. Don’t forget to make her stay in position, even if there are distractions. By pretending not to focus on her nervousness and simultaneously staying in control you will be sending a message that this is no big deal.
On the examining table, don’t focus your attention on Fluffy unless she seems comfortable with the situation. You may want to slip the veterinarian a treat if he/she doesn’t have one to offer your dog. When Fluffy is acting appropriately during the examination, reward her. If she is not behaving herself, hold her firmly without comment and keep up a cheerful chatter with the vet. In other words, stay in control gently but firmly and ignore the bad behavior as much as possible.
If the veterinary clinic is close by, it might be a good idea to visit once or twice a month just to stop in and say hello or purchase some toothpaste or something. This will hopefully reinforce that this is not such a bad place after all.
By trying these techniques, going to the veterinarian may not be the most fun trip of Fluffy’s life, but she probably won’t have a nervous breakdown every time she visits either.