Battersea Q&A: Help! My dog won't go to the vet!
(Q) My previous dog was petrified of going to the vet’s. He would stop walking, I’d have to drag him inside, and he’d try to leave. He would wriggle around on the table making it impossible for the vets and nurses to do their jobs. I’m getting a new dog soon and want to know how to ensure this doesn't happen again.
(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: It’s not uncommon for dogs to be worried about going to the vet’s. We don’t generally take them on social visits, so when they do go they normally have something unpleasant done to them.
This can create a negative association, so as they become older and endure more discomfort they start to anticipate that negative emotion and try to avoid going. The other side of it may be that your dog simply hasn’t been used to the more formal side of being handled and having somebody prod and poke, look in his ears, eyes, and mouth, and lift up his paws and tail.
Owners should get puppies used to being handled all over their bodies, and pair up being handled and touched with something pleasant.
Handle your puppy all over on a daily basis. Start gently so that you don’t overwhelm him, and get other people to practise handling him too, so that your puppy is used to being handled by strangers and sees it as a positive experience.
You can also teach your puppy to keep still when being examined. Hold some treats in your hand while you do all the handling and let your puppy sniff them, but only release a treat as a reward when he is calm and still. To begin with, you may be waiting a while for your puppy to hold still, but as he realises that treats only arrive when he’s still, he should wriggle less.
Many veterinary practices these days encourage owners to make social visits and attend clinics they run, so puppies see it as a fun and exciting place and not somewhere where unpleasant things happen.