I was in Wellington last Thursday repairing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® System for a previous client and his Australian Cattle Dog, Bingo. Our products very rarely break, and if they do, there is a manufacturer’s warranty on the equipment. I am normally called out when the client is adding or subtracting landscape and their landscape workers accidentally break the wire that had been placed in the ground. That was the case with my client in Wellington. It didn’t take too long to find the break and everything was as good as new in a relatively short period of time. My client and I were talking about my dog training experiences and the fact that Robin and I had trained over 3,500 dogs. He then asked a “dog training” question about his dog. He said that Bingo was always afraid when they went to the Veterinarian and if there was a way to make him calm and less crazy.
Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit and use association and repetition to understand and, many times, predict their environment and events. Let’s think about this for one moment. When I was a child and my mother took me to the pediatrician, I would start to get nervous as soon as I saw we had pulled up to his office. We were still getting out of the car, but I knew that the doctor’s office was in the building we were walking towards. It wasn’t the fact that we had just finished a car ride or we were walking in a parking lot or that we were walking towards a building.
I remembered that every time I went into that building, I ended up in the doctor’s office. Different things happened in the office, but it almost always ended in getting a shot in my arm. I was scared of the needle and the cherry lollipop afterwards was not worth the scared anticipation that I was feeling.
Our dogs, including Bingo, also have the ability to establish a list of associated events that can create a specific feeling or action. After further discussion with my client, I discovered that Bingo rarely takes car rides and, when he does, it is normally to the Vet. Also, almost all of the Vet visits involve shots or other uncomfortable events. On top of that, because of my client’s schedule, they normally have to go to the Vet during very busy times.
The answer to resolving Bingo’s fear of the Vet is to disassociate the anticipatory events with the Vet visit and to positively socialize the “Vet experience”. I suggested that they do the following:
- Make the car ride a more pleasurable experience ending up in multiple scenarios. Take Bingo on as many car rides as possible to multiple locations that don’t involve the Vet. Go to the dog stores, to parks, to the coffee shop, an open mall, etc. Use it as the starting point to happy times and positive bond building activities.
- Make sure that Bingo is properly and safely contained when in the car. Falling off the seat or jumping all around can create tension and heightened adrenaline while he is in the car. I suggested to get him a harness that can attach to the seat belt and have him in the back seat. This will keep him stable and secure and will still allow him to look out the window. Put a favorite his favorite towel on the seat for comfort and give him some of his favorite toys or bones for diversion.
- Sometimes, take Bingo to the Vet, but don’t go inside initially. Pull up to the Vet Hospital when there are no or few cars and park. Stay in the car for a few minutes while engaging with Bingo, then leave.
- Repeat the above process for a few days and then get out of the car and walk him on a leash around the outside of the building. Allow him to sniff and even play with him (always on a leash or lead.)
- Next, go into the Vet Hospital when there are few or no dogs. Many Vet Hospitals have “surgery hours” where they are open, but there are no appointments. This could be a good time to go. Simply go inside and sit with Bingo. Again, bring some of his toys and even his “happy blanket”. Get up and walk him around the waiting room so he can smell. Try and do this for a few times.
- Now, ask a Vet Tech to come out and just talk and interact with Bingo. Once Bingo is calm and relaxed, walk him around the waiting room again. Have the Vet Tech walk with you. Now, switch off and have the Vet Tech walk Bingo around as you return to your seat and sit.
- After a few “laps around the waiting room”, you get up and have the Vet Tech walk Bingo back to an open waiting room.
- Put Bingo up on the table and simply stroke him and calmly touch his ears, feet, muzzle, and tail.
- When you leave the Vet Hospital, be sure to praise Bingo on being such a good doggie.
Repeat the “Vet Hospital Visit” for several times and continue the car trips. This will quickly disassociate the car with anticipatory anxiety and show Bingo that the Vet Hospital environment is consistently safe and secure. Your calm and continuous presence through all of these exercises will build and strengthen your bond of security and trust with Bingo.
One of the ways that dogs learn is through consistent, continuous association. Once we properly teach them that trips are good and that there are more pleasant experiences at the Vet than unpleasant, the trip and visit will be uneventful and even enjoyable for both you and your dog. Please contact us by clicking on Dog Fence Training Help Wellington South Florida or phone (954) 472-4724. We have many Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and dog training articles on Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Wellington South Florida. Robin and I are honored to be your area dog professionals for over eleven years in Wellington and the rest of South Florida. Is your dog in need of general behavior training? Besides being dog fence experts, we are also professional dog trainers. Find out about our Obedience and Behavioral In Home Dog Training by clicking Home Dog Training Wellington South Florida.