What is the common scenario of going to the vet with your dog? You are usually stressed, you are rushing to get to work after the vet, or you just had an interesting duck and dive experience in the subway to get home and get your dog there in time for your appointment. Then you get to the vet’s office, your dog puts the breaks on as soon as he sees that evil entrance, you drag him in, he is darting around on the leash while you’re trying to talk to the receptionist and not listening to your sit cue that works perfectly in the kitchen at home. Your so not in the mood for dogs behaving badly, you’re worried about what is wrong with your precious and how big a wedge this vet visit is going to make into your already battered budget.
Does it have to be this way? No it doesn’t, why not turn the vet visits into wonderful training opportunities despite your stressed frame of mind. If you have a dog behaving well in those situations, the visits can be turned into pleasant experiences for the dog, yourself and the veterinarian. Take a treat pouch full of tasty meatballs with you and turn the examination into dreams come true to your dog and make him your vet’s favorite customer. I wouldn’t imagine veterinarians minding if you ask if it is OK for you to train your dog while being there. Of course this might be more easily done on routine visits when you’re not worried sick about your dog. And the veterinarians are on a schedule, they have the next client waiting, so they won’t be happy you taking any more of their time than is necessary. But if you do proper groundwork for behaviors at home and then take them to the vet’s office, extra time is not required.
For instance, going on the scale for weighing. The most common technique is pulling and pushing the poor resisting dog onto that damn thing. To avoid this you can always lure your dog onto the scale with a treat. Yes luring is often OK, even though I was criticizing it in my previous blog, in this case you just want to move your dog from A to B, you’re not trying to teach your dog any new behaviors. But at least in my case the dog already knows that all the gadgets at the vet are Big Evils, luring most likely will not help. But if you start clicking and treating your dog for approaching the scale, he is making a conscious decision to move towards the Big Evil himself. It makes a huge difference! In the scale example I would train two foundations behaviors to a high fluency at home. First, the dog touching my hand with his nose on cue ‘touch’, and second, a sit cue or stand cue. So to get the dog onto the scale you target him on it with the cue ‘touch’ and then give the cue ‘sit or ‘stand’. Wait a few seconds to get a reading, treat your dog with a meatball and voila, everyone is happy!