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How I Got My Big Dog To Like The Vet

My dog once peed on a wall four feet above the ground.  True story.

We were at the vet and had just gotten Nala onto the exam table.  That’s always the worst part for her:  not the shots, not the thermometer but the exam table.  So Nala peed a big puddle right on the table and when she wagged her tail (something she does when she’s nervous) she splashed some onto the wall next to the exam table.

Even though I know pee happens 10 times a day there, I still feel bad.

Still, despite the bladder issues, Nala does pretty well at the vet.  She doesn’t fight going in; she doesn’t fuss when she gets shots; she even is pretty easy to get a temperature from.  There are a few things that I chalk it up to:

It’s a positive experience.  Nala is highly praise and treat motivated, so I make sure she gets plenty of both at the vet.  One reason why I take her to the vet I do is because the staff there gives her plenty of affection (and a few treats too).  She likes the people, so it’s almost like visiting friends.  Almost.

We like the vet.  I used to work for this vet, so I know his experience and value his opinion.  I feel really comfortable asking him questions and get a lot out of each visit as a result.  Nala likes him too:  he’s one of the few 6-foot-tall men she won’t back away from when he walks in the room.

Nala feels comfortable there.  At this vet, she’s only ever had shots and exams.  Her spaying was done somewhere else and she’s never been boarded there, so she doesn’t associate this location with any kind of trauma.  That’s a little tougher when your dog has had something major happen, but not impossible.  I let her sniff the exam room so she gets to know and feel secure there.

Dog at the vet

They're all blurry because she would not. stop. moving.

I keep it normal.  She hears a lot of her regular commands – “lay down” so we can get a temperature reading, “sit” when I sign in and when she’s on the large dog scale, “high five” when she’s being good.  I keep my voice to a normal tone, because a high-pitched voice is unusual and tells her something is wrong.  When it’s just Nala and me in the exam room, if she’s not investigating every corner of the room, I’m running her through commands to earn treats.  It keeps her feeling like this is a normal, everyday situation.

But there’s still something about that exam table.  I think it’s because that’s the only time she ever gets picked up so it’s unnerving to her.  The solution would be to pick her up and carry her so it’s not such a strange sensation, but I’m not seeing that happening anytime soon.  She weighs almost as much as I do.  So the next best thing will be to make sure she empties her bladder outside the vet’s office, rather than inside.

The best thing I can recommend to anyone is to take the time to find a vet you and your big dog both like.  It will make it easier to help your dog through each visit.  And you’ll get a lot more out of it if you trust your vet and feel comfortable asking questions.  Remember, your dog can’t tell the vet what’s been bothering him so he’s relying on you to be prepared with questions and concerns. 

How does your big dog handle the vet?  Got any great tips or embarrassing stories to share?  Head over to the Facebook page and let us know!


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