For most dogs and their owners, going to the vet is not one of the highlights of their life together. Most dogs are very stressed out at the vet.
And who wants to blame them, they usually have one unpleasant experience after the other in the veterinary practice:
They are placed on a table, pressed by strangers, it is pressed on places where it already hurts, they are held on and pecked with needles.
Many dogs turn into a pile of misery at the veterinarian, stand trembling and petrified on the table and wait for the disaster to pass them by. Others try to escape their fate and save themselves by fidgeting or even growling, snapping and biting.
The visit to the veterinarian is usually also very stressful for dog owners, because they feel with their dog. Often, it is also uncomfortable for owners if their dog behaves uncooperatively and snatches at the veterinarian or looks like he is just being led to the scaffold with a simple vaccination. After all, regular visits to the vet are only for the best of the dog, so he has to go through there!
But does he really have to?
A look outside the box in the area of zoo and wild animal husbandry shows an alternative!
You can’t just hold a lion, polar bear, or rhinoceros for medical checkups or treatments. In order to avoid potentially risky anesthesia or coercive measures that are extremely stressful for animals, such animals have long been prepared in many zoological facilities through targeted medical training for actions and experiences that they can experience in connection with veterinary or nursing procedures.
In this way, many animals learn to take positions on signal that enable all parts of the body to be inspected without manipulating the animal. You can also train to open the mouth for a signal to check the mouth and teeth – a measure that nobody would perform on an untrained lion without anesthesia. Even painful procedures such as giving injections or taking blood can be trained through careful and small-step training with positive reinforcement.
Of course, medical training is just as possible with our pets and as effective as with wild animals!
Many owners and veterinarians are simply not aware that scientifically sound training about positive reinforcement is also useful and expedient for visits to the veterinarian and body care measures.
The basis of a successful medical training is a detailed training plan, in which the dog’s current training status, the training goal and the individual training steps that are necessary to get from the current status to the training goal are recorded. How the training plan looks is very individual and depends on the individual dog and the desired goal.
Therefore, close cooperation and good communication between trainer and veterinarian is essential for successful medical training.
If medical training is integrated into the basic education of a puppy and young dog, many later problems can already be counteracted. Every young dog should learn to wait calmly and relaxed in the presence of other animals – also for waiting in the waiting room of a veterinary practice. Standing quietly on a table and letting yourself be touched by strangers can also be practiced in a playful and positive way. If you then train the relaxed tolerance of minor physical manipulations, even if they are briefly unpleasant, and reward them with high-quality rewards, the dog is already well prepared for an average visit to the vet – for example, for vaccination. Of course, good medical training is never complete, but the behaviors that have been trained must be constantly repeated and rewarded in order to maintain them.
Medical training is also a promising strategy for stress reduction during visits to the vet for adult dogs that have already had bad experiences.
In such cases it is advisable to consult an experienced, positive working trainer for support and to coordinate well with the respective veterinarian.