Q. Is there anything I can do about the fact that my nine-month-old female Australian Shepherd hates going to the vet? I have to drag her in to the waiting room and to the consulting room. What can I do differently to make the trips to the vet more pleasant for both of us? Anita, via e-mail
A. Some dogs hate going to the vet for the same reason many humans dislike going to the dentist – fear of pain! Your dog associates the surgery with unpleasant things such as injections or a thermometer in the bottom. If I was a dog I wouldn't want to go either!
In some cases this problem can also be associated with the car. Dogs' first experiences with a vehicle are generally unpleasant ones – being take away from their mother and going on a trip to the vet for their injections. So this is usually where the fear starts. What you've got to do is try and make the experience of going to the vet a pleasant one. Don't just go when the dog needs to see the vet. Pop in and get some food or treats, or simply go and sit in there for a moment – maybe en route to a park walk or similar.
Firstly, I would start by just passing by and not going in. When your dog doesn't look frightened, give her a treat. The next step would be going into the practice for a few minutes, then going out again. Repeat this on a daily basis, if at all possible. If they sell toys, buy her one as a reward. This should start to release the tension and reduce the stress of going to the vet. Another trick, if she won't go past the threshold, is to get a slightly longer lead; then you should go through the door ahead of her and wait. Do not drag her in! Make sure she is safe and cannot get into the road. When she comes in, her reward will be to go straight out again with you, so she sees there's nothing to fear.
You are lucky if you get a pooch that runs into the surgery. Work hard to try and make it more pleasant for your dog and remember: always be patient.
Remember that if an animal shows signs of distress or discomfort an early visit to the vet is always recommended