Bringing an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
Living with a reactive dog certainly brings everyday challenges. One particular challenge is bringing an aggressive dog to the vet. All dogs need regular veterinary care, so it’s important to take a few precautions when scheduling, arriving, waiting and leaving a vet’s office with your aggressive dog.
Why Dogs Get Aggressive at the Vet
Before diving into tips on bringing your aggressive dog to the vet, let me explain why a reactive dog (i.e. a dog that reacts to a situation) acts aggressively at a veterinary clinic. Dog aggression is a symptom of fear. Dogs will stare, growl, lunge, bark, snap and bite to stop something scary from walking toward or touching them. When scared, dogs will flee, fight or freeze similar to humans. If a dog is unable to flee, she will fight or freeze. When a dog freezes, she’s not coping with the situation; she’s shutting down. Plus, freezing will eventually turn into a fight, which we want to prevent.
How to Bring an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
Pet owners can reduce aggressive dog behavior by preparing for a vet visit that includes an exit strategy. At least four weeks before your dog’s vet visit, teach your dog that body handling and wearing a muzzle makes hot dogs rain from the sky.
Schedule for the First or Last Appointment
When scheduling a vet visit, ask for the first or last appointment of the day. Since these time slots usually fill up, you should call two to four weeks in advance. Choosing these specific appointment times will prevent a reactive dog from encountering other dogs and people in a waiting room and busy parking lot. Plus, it’s usually the quietest time in a veterinary clinic.
The first appointment of the day is usually better because there aren’t any wait times. Some clinics complete surgeries in the morning though, so ask for the first appointment after surgeries or schedule your aggressive dog first thing on a non-surgery day.
Wait in Your Car
Park your car far away from the front entrance of the clinic. This way your dog can’t see anyone moving around. Bring two sets of keys, so you can leave your dog with the AC running and securely lock your doors. Check in with the receptionist and tell him you’ll wait in your car until it’s time to be seen by the vet. While it’s tempting to sit in the exam room waiting, this can send a reactive dog over the edge. Veterinary clinics are full of scary sounds and smells. When people and dogs walk quickly past an exam room door, this can cause an aggressive dog to panic. Most veterinary clinics will easily comply—just make sure to politely explain your dog’s needs during check-in.
Exit in the Back
Once your aggressive dog’s vet visit is complete, poke your head out the door to ensure the coast is clear. If it’s difficult to see, ask the vet tech if you can both slip out a back door or ask him to clear a path for you. Bring your dog back to your car, turn on the engine and AC, and lock up the car. Now, head back in and pay your bill. Don’t forget to take a deep breath. You did it!
Be your dog’s voice, and take charge of the situation. Trust me, veterinary clinics will easily comply with your dog’s needs. Their goal is a quiet veterinary clinic as well. 🙂