My Dog Is Extremely Afraid At The Veterinarian’s Office – Phoenix Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
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Many dogs are terrified when going to the veterinarian’s office. What can be done about that? Not all dogs are happy when going to the vet clinic. That isn’t abnormal, it is normal. For most animals, they live within a familiar home range. In nature, animals rarely venture beyond that range, especially species that establish territories. If they do leave, it is normally for mating purposes, to find a new home range, because they’re lost, or because some environmental stress has driven them away from their home range.
Most animals also are very wary of entering unfamiliar enclosed spaces. If you ever watch your dog play, notice what happens when they lose a toy under a couch, or down a hole, or it goes into a dark place… they are very hesitant about reaching in. Dogs instinctively are alert and wary of unfamiliar places, and especially unfamiliar places that are enclosed. Dangerous animal might be lurking in that place, such as in a cave or hole. Unfamiliar flooring can also be disconcerting, especially if your dog isn’t feeling well or doesn’t regularly go on walks. Thus, when a dog enters into an unfamiliar building, with an unfamiliar space with unfamiliar sounds, smells (including chemicals, and the smells of sick or dying animals), people, including cats and dogs and birds, they are going to be on guard, and in many cases, afraid. Dogs understand that certain locations and social situations are potentially dangerous. That is a holdover from their ancient ancestors being wild animals.
In addition, most veterinary offices are really designed for the comfort and efficiency of the veterinarians, technicians, staff, incoming vendors, and human customers. Dogs don’t factor as much into the architectural designs as you might imagine. And the buildings are constructed according to building codes that were never designed for making dogs feel secure. Further, many veterinarians aren’t really that thoughtful concerning how the dogs are experiencing their medical visits. I’ve heard of dogs being pinned down by 4 or 5 veterinarians and techs in order to give the dog an exam, vaccinations, or other treatments. And dogs often will leave the office feeling nauseous, sore, or in pain. All that leaves that poor dog where it will be more terrified the next time the dog returns. I’ve seen dogs get so bad with this kind of treatment, that the vets actually banned the dogs from coming back… when the vets caused the problems in the first place!
So, add all that up, and what else would you expect?
There are ways of making vet visits more pleasant. And in an ideal world, there would be a collaboration between the veterinarians, their staff, and the customers, to make each visit as happy and relaxing as possible. I have worked with many customers and veterinarians to make these kinds of changes. In addition, I have assigned behavioral homework to help everyone in this situation, including the dogs, have a better experience.
A good behaviorist can help if asked. If your dog is freaking out at the vet’s office, it is time to call for some professional advice.