Ready…Set…for Groomer and Vet!

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Originally published January 19, 2012

Visiting the veterinarian's office can be a tense experience, for both the owner and the dog, especially if the environment has stressful associations and outcomes. At my training facility in Chicago, our Ready...Set...for Groomer and Vet! program integrates fun games into group sessions, and then brings the activities and behaviors next door to a veterinarian office, where we also teach.

Here are some quick tips to help you and your clients:

Dogs waiting and "weighing" calmly
at the vet's office.

  1. Plan "Happy Vet Office Visits" in between scheduled wellness exams and vaccinations. Call your veterinarian's office ahead of time to make sure the visit works for them.
  2. If space and time allow, plan easy and enjoyable walks around the outside area of your vet clinic. These exposures will help teach your puppy or dog that drives to the vet can equal fun walks outside the clinic, and don't always lead to walking inside the vet office.
  3. Bring to vet visits plenty, and a variety, of treats, toys, and activities that your dog enjoys. Some dogs enjoy a great game of tug, light jogging around outside, and/or clicking and treating for desired behaviors.
  4. Bring a lightweight and easy-to-carry mat on which your dog has learned to stand, sit, or lie down on during training sessions. Place the training mat on the floor in the clinic's lobby and use it as a place for your dog to settle on while waiting for your appointment. (Enjoy the video!).
  5. Bring a small towel and bury treats in it. This game is a fun and easy way to enrich the environment for your dog.
  6. Invite the vet staff to help with training. If they have time, slowly incorporate staff members into fun training exercises. (Enjoy video of staff helping with tactile and gentle restraint.)
  7. Staff helping with tactile and gentle restraint.

  8. Be open to moving to areas outside or inside the vet clinic if your dog, or another dog, needs more room to relax and feel safe.
  9. Before your dog is weighed, place enrichment toys or a mat on the scale to make the surface more inviting.
  10. Use food tubes. Tubes can be easier for some owners to manage when offering a "Click and Lick" of creamy peanut butter, Easy Cheese, or other delicious food items that your dog enjoys.
  11. Ask your local trainer for ways to integrate games into group or private sessions. Visit the Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) Find a Trainer page to find a KPA Certified Training Partner (CTP) near you!
  12. Visit Dr. Sophia Yin's website for more excellent resources. You can also refer to her amazing book Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats.

These are just a few of many tips that can move training forward. Enjoy the video demonstrations, and have fun getting "Ready…Set…for Groomer and Vet."

For more tips on creating positive experiences at the groomer and vet, join Laura at ClickerExpo Stamford (March 31-April 2). Register now!

About the author
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Laura Monaco Torelli, Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) and a member of the KPA and ClickerExpo faculties, is the Director of Training for Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago. She works in collaboration with veterinary behaviorist Dr. John Ciribassi at Animal Behavior Partners, and is staff with Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants. Since 1991, Laura has worked with and trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins (at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago), primates, large cats, birds of prey, reticulated giraffes, Arctic foxes, horses, parrots, macaws, tree kangaroos, and red pandas (at the San Diego Zoo and Brookfield Zoo), and, of course, dogs (just about everywhere). Laura has spoken at many professional conferences and has appeared on various broadcast media.