My dear doctor, I am surprised to hear you say that I am coughing very badly, as I have been practicing all night – John Philpot Curran
No one actually looks forward to going to the doctor. There’s that sterile smell (you hope), the bright fluorescent lights reflecting off of the tile floor, and the magazines that you can only guess how many sick people have flipped through already. So now, take that, and imagine you have no idea why you’re there, your doctor is about 4-5 feet taller than you, no one speaks the same language, and you can smell every one that has walked through that door before. Welcome to the vet’s office!
The other day Porter had his yearly checkup. Now, when I take Porter to the vet there are a few things I always do. I try and tire him out before by going for a walk. Once we arrive at the vet’s office we walk around the parking lot for a little bit. This gets him used to where we are, he can already smell the other animals around, so it provides a constructive way to get rid of some energy.
As we were about to walk into the vet’s office, I see an SUV pull up with 2 kids under the age of 12, their mother, and 2 adorable yet very hyperactive bulldogs (yes, totally possible) pile out of the car. I decided I would let them walk into the office first. I stayed a good distance away from them and made sure I had control over Porter. Not only did I want Porter to calm down and get a hint of their scent before we were thrown into the office together, but I also wanted to see how the 2 over excited dogs would be handled. This way I could know what kind of dragon’s lair I would be stepping into.
To my frustration, the 2 kids were handling the dogs on retractable leashes with the dogs pulling about 6 feet ahead. This is in no way the kids fault. This is obviously a situation where the adult needed to step up and, well, be an adult.
Before I let Porter walk into any new building, especially the vet’s office, he must sit. This allows him to get rid of a few more of the jitters and recognize that he’s not allowed to run in and do whatever he wants.
I surveyed the situation immediately and just as I expected the 2 bulldogs were still loose on their leashes taking up the entire waiting room. I’m aware that Porter is dog reactive, so now all of my attention was on him. We sat in the corner, the seat closest to the door. I positioned my body so that Porter was behind my leg. He could look out and see, but it was obvious to the other dogs that he was mine and it was obvious to him that I was going to protect him. Porter waited and sat there patiently. Whenever he got a little too interested in the dogs running around he would get a quick correction and he would go back into relaxing mode, eventually putting his head on my lap.
The vet tech told us it was time for our appointment and asked the bulldog’s owner to please make room for Porter and us to walk through. The mother, again, said nothing to her kids. The kids decided that the best course of action was to go to either side of the waiting room (not their fault, they were given no direction by their Pilot… or lack thereof). Porter and I now had a 2 inch clearance on either side from these dogs that were already dog reactive. And now, I had to walk my dog reactive dog through the middle. .
Here’s where the saying “Fake it until you make it” comes in. I had to portray to Porter that this was no big deal and we were going to make it out fine. I took a deep breath, made sure I had control over my own dog, and walked through the middle of the room like it was the most boring thing I had ever done. There was barking, lunging and drooling from either side of me and Porter, but we calmly walked through like it was no big deal (cue explosions behind us).
When you walk into a vet’s office you’ll meet dogs there without Pilots. And you’ll meet people there that need their own Pilot quite honestly. The key is to use the tools you’ve been working on and know that you’ll get through it and you and your dog will be stronger for it.
- Take them for a walk before hand
- Make sure your dog is calm before walking into the office
- When you’re waiting for your appointment, take a wide stance and let your dog sit behind or in between your legs. This offers them a sense of comfort
- Act like going to the vet is the most ordinary and boring thing you’ve ever done. If you act like you’re apprehensive, your dog will pick up on that.
- Fake it until you make it. If you’re faced with a situation that makes you uneasy, fake that confidence until you can get both you and your dog out of the situation
And then after all that happens? Fido can totally get an extra treat or two.
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH