Vet visits are stressful, but if you’re trying to take in a dog that is prone to reacting with aggressive behavior, a trip to the clinic can sound like a nightmare. However, there are things that you can do to make your annual check-up or emergency visit a bit less challenging for both you and your dog.
Understanding why your dog becomes aggressive
The first step to preventing aggressive behavior is understanding why it happens. While owners of aggressive dogs may think their dog has a chip on their shoulder, the attitude is likely more to do with fear. Like any animal, when dogs become fearful of something, they enter fight or flight mode. And when they know they can’t flee, the barking, growling, aggressive stances, and fighting begin.
Sometimes, dogs are perfectly fine with other dogs and humans but can become aggressive when entering stressful environments, like a veterinarian’s office. The anxiety of what’s to come, mixed with the sounds of howling from the room and the overwhelming smells and presence of other animals, is enough to put even the calmest dog on edge.
If you know your dog is aggressive or that they become aggressive when entering the vet clinic, what can you do to make for a more relaxing and productive visit?
Schedule your appointment to avoid other dogs
When scheduling your annual check-ups, ask the clinic if they have any time slots available first thing in the morning or for the last appointment of the day. Arriving first or last can minimize encounters with other animals, with only potential run-ins at the beginning or end of the visit. However, do keep in mind that because your dog isn’t the only one who gets shaken up at vet visits, these appointment times can go fast, so you may need to schedule ahead.
Wait outside or in your car
Avoid the waiting room stress altogether by keeping your pup outside or in the car. You may also consider bringing a friend to help you so they can wait outside with the dog while you check them in or wait for your dog to be called in (never leave your dog in the car alone). However, most vet clinics will accommodate outside waiting by providing pagers or sending text messages or voice calls when the vet is ready to see your dog.
Request everything to be done in a private room
While most procedures are done in a private exam room, things like checking-in and weighing your animal are typically performed in a central hallway or near the waiting room. This can peak your dog’s anxiety and make it difficult to get proper measurements. Ask the clinic if they have portable veterinary scales so they can weigh your dog in the exam room, without the distraction of other animals.
Ask about backdoor exits
Vets love animals—that’s why they’re in the business! So, it’s natural that they would want your dog to feel at ease, too. Call ahead to explain your situation to the vet staff and ask if they may have a separate door you can enter and exit through or if they have any other things in place to accommodate your dog’s special needs. Don’t feel embarrassed. Dog aggression at vet clinics is fairly common.
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