One of the most important pillars to your new puppy's health is routine veterinary care. As veterinary professionals, we are often faced with adult dogs that are uncomfortable being restrained for routine healthcare (nail trims, blood draws, physical exams, etc.). This not only makes it a stressful visit for the dog, but there is also more risk to the veterinary staff, and it is difficult for the doctor to accurately perform a physical exam on a fearful, anxious, or stressed dog. Here at CVHC, we want to take the fear out of these visits by promoting a Fear Free experience through "happy visits" and educating our clients on the importance of puppy training and handling.
Imagine the variety of ways your dog may be approached throughout its life by an unfamiliar stranger, whether it be an innocent child reaching out for a hug, a passerby on your daily walk attempting to pet your dog on the head, or a veterinary staff member restraining for care. Of course, a properly exercised, mentally balanced dog should react positively to these scenarios, but I want to talk about the importance of cultivating a dog that is a "mentally well-balanced" member of the family. I believe it starts with teaching them to calmly accept handling. This "training" can start as soon as your new puppy joins the family at 8 weeks old. Studies say that the most critical socialization window is when a puppy is between 6-12 weeks old.
You should get your puppy accustomed to their gums/teeth being touched, each individual toe being manipulated, being "bear hugged" similar to how a veterinary staff member might restrain, their ears being cleaned, their bodies being stroked similar to how a groomer might brush them, etc. to teach them that these treatments are non-threatening. An important aspect of this training is that they should enjoy this attention and remain calm and accepting of these treatments, therefore you should conquer these steps slowly and over time, being careful not to stress the puppy and achieve the opposite effect. If your puppy is resisting or uncomfortable, you should seek out the help of a professionally trained member of the dog community such as a trainer, or puppy classes to help you move forward with a happy, well-balanced dog. It is important to remember every dog is different, and every dog does not fit the same training mold, but it is our job as owners to provide the best possible environment for our new puppies to grow. Remember, a fearful, anxious, or stressed dog is not a happy dog. We recommend bringing your dog for "happy visits" to practice getting on the scale, and to learn that a visit to the vet is not always a stressful event.
This guest blog was provided by our veterinary nurse assistant Carrie Savino. Carrie has a passion for pets and it truly comes through in all aspects of her work here at Companion Veterinary Health Center.