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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Preparing Your Puppy for a Life of Happy Vet Visits

by Carrie Boyko

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While at the vet with my pack recently, one of the pet nurses commented on how amiable all three of my dogs are when they come in for their regular exams and vaccinations. She went on to explain that many of the dogs who visit them are fearful, aggressive or anxious during their visits, which seems to result in a higher-maintenance visit for the vet and nurses.

Thinking back on my puppy raising days, I remembered that these problems are the reason for many of the daily handling activities that owners are encouraged to do with their pups. 

Below are a few of the tips that will help you prepare your pup for a less-anxious, more enjoyable experience at the veterinarian. The logic behind most of these tasks is to acclimate your puppy to the types of handling and activities that will occur at the vet. If your puppy is used to being handled in the same ways that the nurses and doctors do, they will be much less likely to be frightened. Daily practice, starting today, will help your furry friend be a much happier patient, and that is good for both of you.

  • Begin human socialization immediately upon taking your puppy home; take him out to meet others and encourage everyone who visits to play with and handle him.
  • Emphasize a variety of different looking people in your socialization exercises: wheelchairs, canes, blacks, whites, beards, curly hair, you get the picture. Your pup needs to see it all during these formative first few months. Be sure to include folks in various types of uniforms as well. Fearful dogs have often been known to target uniformed people like mail carriers, police and even veterinarians.
  • Demonstrate leadership when socializing your pup by always showing your complete and total confidence in the presence of different looking people and places. You will be setting the example for your pup's lack of nervous energy at the vet, if you greet the vet warmly and show Rover how enjoyable it is to be there.
  • Expose your puppy to noises of all kinds as well--printers, phones, meowing cats, barking dogs, and yes, even bigger groups of them, when she is ready.
  • Handle your puppy daily in many of the ways your vet will do this, checking ears, eyes, teeth, abdomen, tail, backside and pads of the feet.
  • For many pups the toes may be a sensitive area. If so, choose a soothing foot-pad massage instead, gradually getting deeper between the toes as your puppy begins to grow larger and accept this manipulation.
  • Praise the puppy lavishly each time she allows you to examine an area that you need to get good visibility in. Trust me, one day when you need to pull a tick from between her toes, you'll need her to cooperate. Now is the time to prepare her for this eventuality.
  • You can even mimic an eye check. First allow your pup to sniff and examine the flashlight. Then use it to dart the light quickly past her eyes, praising her when she handles this with moderate ease.
  •  Include gentle snout massages in your routine to prepare the puppy for a nose exam. Treat her when she willingly allows you to massage or stroke her snout, as this is another extremely sensitive area on most dogs.

If you get your puppy used to being held, handled, checked and socialized with people, she will show you quite quickly that she can be a terrific patient. It just takes some diligence to practice these moves daily.

One final tip…most vets use a large scale to weigh your pup on. You can use a dark floor mat or other low, stable item to practice weighing. Teaching your puppy to sit on the scale will assist with getting an accurate weight. Most puppies can learn the sit command within a couple of days of starting to practice. Check back for my post of teaching sit, coming soon here at All Things Dog Blog.

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© Carrie Boyko, all rights reserved

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