At Thurston Vets, we aim to promote a positive experience for your dog when you visit us. We like to see a happily wagging tail on the way in and on the way out and our treat pot is always at the ready! Sadly, not all dogs are at ease with a visit to the Vets; some find the experience frightening or even traumatic. However, this doesn't have to be the only scenario for your dog. We can help build up a happier association, improving trust and bonds with the people that work here.
We all experience fear, it is a natural emotion as the brain prepares us for fight or flight. In some cases, a fear response can become so overwhelming it affects our ability to have a rational response. It can physically leave us shaking, sweating or actually paralyzed in fear. We can make a future choice to avoid dealing with the object of the fear or learn to overcome it. The emotional reaction is no different for your dog, but they don’t have the choice to avoid a visit to the Vets, even though they may be desperate to! At Thurston Vets we run behaviour clinics specifically tailored to improve those core fears and help your dog feel more confident with each visit.
If you are unsure of the level of fear your dog is experiencing, let’s look at the body expressions that vary from dog to dog. Your dog may show a few or all of these. He or she may ‘hold in’ emotion, wanting to hide away or appear ‘small’. They may seem withdrawn, not wanting to interact with you or others, looking away, showing the whites of his eyes, ears held back, licking lips or nose, pupils enlarged, tail tucked between his legs, they may start to pant or yawn. Yawning isn’t always an indication of tiredness; it is often a response to relieve stress. Your dog may seek your reassurance, wanting to be as close as possible to you, some physically shake. Your dog may show displacement activity, sniffing around, nibbling at himself or become hyper-active, seemingly excited but actually driven by an adrenaline surge of fear.
When the Vet calls you in, does your dog show a low tail wag in submission, refuse to walk forward, looking desperate to get away? When in the exam room, fear status can then be elevated by being picked up and placed onto the table. However gentle and caring our Vets are, the examinations can be traumatic and your dog may shut down and not respond to anyone or become defensive, growling, lip lifting, freezing, snapping or biting when under pressure. Some are so overwhelmed they will urinate or defecate. An owner recognising this fear reaction in their companion may understandably avoid bringing their dog unless absolutely necessary.
These extreme fear signs can be caused by trauma from ill health or in a dog that lacks general confidence and is nervous by nature. It can build up over a succession of visits or from just one single experience.
Negative experience can also start from puppyhood. Coming to the Vets is often the first alien event after being taken away from their original home. However,
there is no need to avoid us! Together, we can help your dog learn to overcome his fears.
For more information go to Helen's Website or conatct her on: Tel: 01359 241890 Mob: 07788 718852 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starting at the beginning, bringing your puppy to our puppy classes can promote the first positive experiences. Come and see us regularly! Repeated visits just to say ‘Hi’, to enjoy some affection and treats from the staff in reception, will really help your dog become familiar and relaxed at the surgery. Bring some of your dog’s favourite food with you or his toy, this is called a positive reinforcer.
If you recognise your dog is in low level fear or shows extreme fear and you would like to improve his emotional status when he comes to the Vets, come and book a weekly half hour session. I will discuss with you the main areas of concern and take it right back to basics. I look at how your dog walks into the Practice, grade his or her fear response and we start to build confidence with exercises in a safe area, introducing positive reinforcers with mats, scales and the table. We look at counter conditioning methods for handling techniques and holds such as ears, tail and feet, introduce dummy hand work if necessary and positive association with being muzzled. Clicker training maybe appropriate and desensitization to equipment such as clippers, nail clippers, a stethoscope, even the feel of preparing for injections.
You will be encouraged to follow exercises at home where your dog may learn at a faster rate due to the reduction of fear and stress.
We look forward to seeing you at the surgery! Behaviour Clinics are now running for any other kind of dog behaviour problems, for any age of dog. Call Thurston Branch on 01359 232200.