training tips to make vet visits a success – part 1

Posted by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA on Sep 26 2013

You just got a new dog and you’re excited! You've already been to the store (at least twice), to pick up a new collar, leash, food, toys, treats – all of the accouterments! Now it’s time for your first vet visit. How are you going to prepare?

Prepare? You mean you don’t just walk your dog into the office and let the doc do their thing? Well, you could, but there are things you can do to prime your pup that will leave the whole hospital staff telling everyone what a cool dog they saw that day. Not only is vet visit etiquette important for pet parents, but it is helpful for four-legged patients, too!

Try these training tips for making visits to the veterinarian easy for everyone:

A-weigh We Go!

One of the first things your vet will ask you to do is guide your dog onto the scale and have him sit still while his weight is recorded. To teach this skill at home, find a solid box, wine crate, or even your own bathroom scale if your dog is small enough. Lure your dog onto the “scale” with a treat and verbal persuasion, and reward him when he steps onto the surface. Once he is there, ask for a sit and stay. Have him hold the stay until you release him off of the scale. The larger variety of surfaces you practice on, the more confident your dog will be, so try to get your dog to jump and sit on many different objects!

Let’s Get Physical

If you wait until your dog has an ear infection to begin handling his ears, you will make the dog defensive (he will associate your handling of his ears with the discomfort he is experiencing). The same is true of nail trims; if the only time you ever handle your dog’s paws is to clip her nails, then paw handling will take on a negative assessment in your dog’s mind. To avoid forming the wrong associations, be proactive! While your dog is perfectly healthy, (and young if you’ve got that luxury), start getting him comfortable with all kinds of body handling.

To practice at home, pick up each of your dog’s paws and offer a treat while you hold the paw. Try to lift the lips and touch the teeth, offering treats when your dog tolerates the handling. Tug (gently) on the tail a little or pinch the skin on the back of the neck, then offer a treat! The more handling you do, the more tolerant your dog will become. When it’s time for a vet visit, your dog will be conditioned to handling in a positive way.

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle one of the tougher tricks of vet visit conditioning – muzzling your dog.