Teach Your Dog to Handle an Exam
By Scott Sensinig for Exceptional Canine
Your dog is never too young to learn how to be a good patient. In fact, the younger, the better. With the right training and socialization, medical exams will be less traumatic for you, your pup and your veterinarian.
Control your puppy’s exposure to other animals to protect it against disease, but don’t turn your pet into a canine version of the “bubble boy.” Interactions with other safe domestic pets and people are a good way to socialize your pet when it’s young. And you can take the fear out of encountering new sights and smells by taking your puppy into lots of different buildings where dogs are allowed.
Likewise, take pleasant road trips with your pup so it doesn’t become car- and vet-phobic. A get-to-know vet visit helps your dog associate the nice person in the white coat with praise and treats instead of a source of terror.
Try these tips to help your dog handle the physical exam:
Desensitize its senses. Get your dog accustomed to being touched by patting all over its body, including ears, gums and paws. Make this fun for your dog by rewarding each hand stroke with praise and treats.
Give it the family touch. Ask family members and friends to touch your dog all over so your pal thinks it’s no big deal to be handled by anybody.
Associate touching with play. Gently grab your dog’s collar, say “Gotcha” or “Simon says” and immediately reward with praise and a treat. Gradually extend the length of time you touch or hold any body part.
Practice exam-table time. A washer or dryer isn’t an exam table, but your dog won’t know the difference. Place a slip-retardant mat or towel on your appliance and lift your dog onto it. Start with just a few seconds, then gradually increase the time, supporting your dog to make sure it doesn’t jump off.
The earlier you teach your dog to handle an exam, the better — but at any age, a dog can learn to be a better patient with gentle, progressive and fun training.
Scott Sensinig is a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT) and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). He is a senior-level instructor at the Dog Training Club of Chester County in Exton, Penn.