Very happy veterinarian getting a kiss from a dog

Pleasant Pups: Challenges and Solutions for Fear-Free Vet Visits and Great Behavior Throughout Life

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Protecting Your Pet from Discomfort

What does this mean for petting? You may have heard of a consent test. This is how we ask our dog what they think of being petted. If you pet a dog and then stop, and the dog reengages with you, for example, by licking your hand, the dog wants to be petted. If you pet a dog, and the dog walks away, the dog isn’t interested in being petted. This doesn’t mean the dog never wants to be petted; it might just mean the dog is more interested in exploring the environment. If you pet a dog, and the dog gives no response, the dog likely does not want to be petted.

Training and Discomfort

Budget time for your dog and always go at their pace. Avoid punishment and protect your dog from becoming fearful of you. For example, save the word “No!” for emergency use only. Instead, focus on what you want your dog to be doing. Once you know what you want your dog to be doing, set up the environment so it’s easy for your dog to make the right choice, and reward it generously.

Protecting Your Pup at the Vet

Procedures such as injections, nail trims, slippery surfaces, and visiting while ill can be very uncomfortable and stressful for dogs. Unfamiliar people and animals can also be scary. Even the car ride to the vet can sometimes bring discomfort.

Vet Visits Can Be Pleasant

Vet visits can be pleasant if owners advocate for it. To achieve this, think about what’s a high value reward for your pet. Some love roasted chicken and for others it’s a toy. For others, commercially available treats, like Wonder Nuggets or Plato Small Bites.

After you adopt your dog, begin teaching necessary skills at home to make handling pleasant. Mat training works great to get your dog to dog what you want. Once you’ve successfully trained your dog with a mat, you can take that mat in the car and to vet visits.

Take Trips to the Vet for Fun

A male secretary petting a big dog at the veterinary clinic.

Going to the vet just for fun can help your dog if they are anxious at vet visits. Use treats to keep them pleasant and start by getting them used to the parking lot. Then, you can move to the lobby.

Also, discuss your goals with the veterinary team. Your vet also wants your dog to have a pleasant experience at the clinic and will be open to helping.

Challenges for Puppies

One of the challenges of puppies is socialization. They may have not had siblings to help guide how to interact with other dogs. Housetraining can also be difficult as well as the potential for anxiety or handling intolerance.

Setting Your Puppy Up for Success

Use care when selecting a puppy. If selecting a pure-bred puppy, always meet the parents and make sure your puppy is kept with the mom until 8 weeks old. For all puppies, use your observational skills. Check to see if the puppy seems calm or stressed when handled.

Socialization is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your puppy is well adjusted. Begin with socialization at home and then work toward visiting other places. Puppy classes are also good at helping your pup get used to interaction.

Adult Dogs and Challenges

woman in white walking dog down sidewalk

Adult dogs can have challenges too, like unruly behavior, poor impulse control, aggression, fears, and trauma. Socialization must continue. The systematic practice of pleasant emotions is your dog’s protection against aggression, fear and anxiety. Limited socialization can affect behavior.

Continue to manage the environment to set your dog up for success. Budget time for your dog and plan. Sustain connectedness by focusing on your dog and reinforce desired behavior when you see it.

Senior Dogs

Senior dogs can be challenged with sensory, cognitive and physical changes. We can support and manage discomfort by being patient and keeping them moving. Also, make sure to provide mental enrichment like toys and puzzle feeders.

Behavior Modification

You may need to get help with behavior modification. These resources walk you through considerations when looking for a trainer and where to find help.


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