If most dogs had their way, they wouldn’t put one paw inside the vet’s office. It can be a scary place with unfamiliar smells, slippery floors, cold exam tables and strangers poking them. A routine checkup can cause even a laid back dog to feel stressed out. You can help your dog feel more at ease by teaching him some simple commands.
Go to Your Mat
A mat with a nonslip bottom gives your dog a familiar and safe place to rest while waiting to see the vet. It provides a gripping ability for his feet while on an exam table, the floor, or while being weighed. When training your dog to go to his mat, only use it for positive and pleasant interactions. You want him to learn it’s a secure and happy space. Some dogs might prefer using their favorite blanket instead of a mat.
Asking your dog to shake hands is a good way for him to willingly give his paw to someone. The more he shakes hands, the more comfortable he will be with having his feet handled. Encourage your dog to shake hands with your vet and other staff members to help him develop a relationship with them. This will be helpful when your vet needs to trim your dog’s nails or examine a leg or paw.
There are times when you may need to get and hold your dog’s attention. Most canines aren’t fans of having their ears prodded and having him focus on you is a good distraction to help him feel more comfortable. Direct eye contact can be taken as a threat by some dogs and if he willingly makes eye contact on cue it can reduce his discomfort during an eye exam. It’s also a helpful command in the waiting room if you need to distract your dog.
This is a command all dogs should know; it means to stay put until you tell him he can move. It’s an extremely helpful command to keep your dog from racing out the front door or trying to reclaim something you told him to drop. It comes in handy at the vet’s office to have him hold still during an exam. Teaching your dog to wait may be a bit more challenging, but it’s a command that could save his life.
Sometimes the vet needs to exam a dog’s chest or abdomen. Small to medium sized dogs that can sit up like they are begging make it easier to exam certain body areas without having to place your pet on his back or roll him back and forth. It makes the exam more comfortable when your dog isn’t joggled around.
Puppy Push Ups
This is a combination of sit, down and stand commands that can be used to help your dog stay still while being weighed or on the exam table. Sit, down and stand commands are good for larger dogs that can’t sit up when the vet needs to check out their chest or abdomen. Teaching your dog to do puppy push ups can help him stay calm and relaxed, and provides some mental and physical exercise when the weather interferes with outside activities.
On Your Side/Relax
There may be times when your vet needs to have your dog lie on his side during an exam. While your pet is lying on his side, it’s a good opportunity to slowly work your hands over his body so he can become accustomed to touch.
This command helps you move your dog in a different direction. It’s better if he can make the change himself instead of you or the vet having to physically turn him around.
It’s important to get your dog accustomed to being touched anywhere on his body, especially sensitive areas like the ears, paws, tail and hips. During an exam, dogs used to being touched and handled on a daily basis are less likely to feel their personal space is being invaded.
Teaching your dog commands to perform while at the vet allows him to move his body on his own without having you or the vet trying to push, pull or manipulate him into certain positions. Asking him to do different commands gives him a job to do and provides a distraction that can help your canine friend feel more at ease. A trip to the vet doesn’t have to be stressful for your dog; having him do certain commands can help him be on his best behavior. Don’t forget to reward him with his favorite dog treats for doing what you ask!