There is no better time to teach your puppy how pleasant and fun a veterinarian visit may be than during puppy hood. Indeed, if all dog owners would engage in this task during their puppy’s first months, there would be considerably less dogs fearful of the vet’s office around. Teaching your dog how to behave at the vet’s office starts early from home, by setting up mock vet visits and getting your puppy used to being handled and inspected.
For these tasks you will require some tasty treats your puppy loves and lots of patience. Do not show any frustration; if your puppy is misbehaving just try again later when he is in a more relaxed state of mind. Any frustration or anger from your part will be perceived by your puppy and may influence his future behaviors in being handled. Take baby steps. It all should feel like a fun game. Following are some tips to getting your puppy used to vet visits.
Visit the Vet
There are countless adult dogs who resent having their paws handled. This often occurs in dogs who never had their paws handled as puppies. Pick your pup’s legs one at a time and praise lavishly and give treats. Having your puppy used to having his paws handled from a young age will ensure he will accept this practice further down the road. With treats and lots of praise, your puppy will associate having his paws touched with something pleasant.
Another problem is that many dogs are not collaborative in having their mouths inspected. Puppies can be taught to have their mouths inspected from a young age. Start by just opening your puppy’s mouth for a second and telling her what a good girl she is, then, slip a tasty treat in the opened mouth. Work on gradually increasing the time you inspect the mouth always praising and giving treats.
Dogs are often prone to ear infections so it’s best to get them used to having their ears handled from a young age. Gently lift up the puppy’s ears if they are floppy, or carefully inspect the ears if they are erect, praise and give a treat. If your dog is very eager to play, you can also toss a toy right after you touch the ears. Anything to praise and help your dog accept your touch.
Your puppy’s first vet visits will likely include important puppy shots. You can prepare your puppy by using a pencil or a syringe without the needle and letting him sniff it. Give treats after each time he sniffs the object. Then you can mimic a shot by placing the pencil or syringe on the skin by your dog’s shoulders or hind leg and apply light pressure followed by treats.
In dogs, body temperature is taken rectally and most dogs object to having their temperatures taken this way. Yet, temperature taking is important to diagnose fevers and other underlying illnesses. You can get your puppy accustomed by lifting his tail while giving him treats. If you want to go a step ahead, you can even slightly insert the tip of a thermometer and feed him treats gradually prolonging the time it’s kept there.
Now that your puppy is getting used to being handled, have your friend lift your puppy and place him on a table for a brief inspection. She will play the part of the vet and inspect the puppy as a vet would do. You can also her use a fake stethoscope (as those used by children when playing doctor) and try to mimic a real visit. Always make it fun by praising and pairing touch with treats.
On top of getting your puppy used to being handled you want to create positive associations with going to the vet’s office. Keep up the training by stopping by your vet’s office, chatting with the staff and possibly having them hand feed your puppy a treat. This way, the day your puppy needs to really see the vet, he should feel comfortable going to such a wonderful place and being handled.
The Bottom Line
As seen, there are several steps you can take in making vet visits more pleasant for your puppy. After all, the vet’s office can be a scary place for dogs. We can’t blame them; nobody enjoys being pricked, poked and prodded by a stranger in a place with unfamiliar smells. However, early handling exercises and frequent trips to the vet for cookies and attention can really make a difference on how your puppy perceives them.