Yesterday, I shared some training tips for conditioning your pet to tolerate vet visits. Today, I am going to offer advice for getting your pup used to being muzzled. During the physical exam, your vet may choose to muzzle your dog for several reasons. Your dog may display body language that signals he is uncomfortable and could nip. The vet may need to do a procedure that is less than comfortable for the dog, like x-rays of a painful area or drawing blood. No matter how sweet and friendly your dog is, if he is anxious in a certain situation, or in pain, there is potential for him to bite. Do not take muzzling personally – it is for the safety of both the doctor and your dog.
Conditioning your dog to slip his head into a muzzle will make your vet very happy with you. Most times staff would prefer if you muzzled your dog to keep the situation as comfortable as possible. If you’ve got a dog who you know will have to be muzzled at the vet, here is how to practice at home.
Find a muzzle that fits your dog well, and that you are comfortable with putting on (not a basket muzzle). Start by holding the muzzle out to your dog with a treat at the other end. When your dog puts his nose in the muzzle, reward him with a treat and verbal praise. Do not clip the muzzle closed at first; your dog won’t be able to enjoy his treat, and right now you are just getting him used to putting his nose in the hole. Repeat several times until your dog is offering to put his face in the muzzle with little or no persuasion from you. Next, clip the muzzle on, take it off, then offer the treat. This is how to start conditioning your dog to be comfortable with the muzzle. Repeat these steps often and in different situations to be sure that your dog is totally comfortable, and to make muzzling just another part of the appointment.
Odds & Ends
It is worth mentioning that sometimes the vet will take your dog into a treatment area without you, so making sure that your dog is comfortable with strangers is important. You may want to practice some of the tips I have shared with a friend or neighbor so that your dog is comfortable with anyone handling him – not just you.
Another thing to note is that the reception area of a vet’s office can get crowded; always keep your dog on a leash and keep an eye on him. There are lots of smells and other animals to be curious about, but this is not the time for socialization! Remaining on leash keeps your dog safe from stressful encounters with other dogs, and protects him against contagious illnesses.
When conditioning your dog, remember: the way to his heart is through his stomach! Practice your training everywhere, and reward your dog when he is successful. This will help reinforce the behaviors you are trying to impart, and make your pup a superstar!
Keep these tips in mind and you will be able to tackle your vet visits cool, calm and collected to impress the staff and the other patients!