Vets are trained to handle aggressive dogs, so nothing stops you from taking your dog to the veterinarian. If you’re wondering how vets handle aggressive dogs, keep reading.
Common Reasons Dogs Become Aggressive During Veterinary Visits
Dogs may become aggressive during veterinary visits for a variety of reasons. Some common triggers for aggressive behavior in dogs during vet visits include:
Fear and Anxiety
Dogs may become anxious or fearful when they are in unfamiliar or stressful situations, such as visiting the vet’s office. This anxiety can lead to aggressive behavior as a way to protect themselves.
Pain and Discomfort
If a dog is in pain or discomfort, it may become aggressive when touched or handled. This can be particularly common if the dog is experiencing a medical condition that is causing pain, such as a dental issue or an injury.
Previous Negative Experiences
If a dog has had negative experiences at the vet’s office in the past, such as being handled roughly or receiving painful treatments, it may associate the vet’s office with these negative experiences and become aggressive during future visits.
Lack of Socialization
Dogs that have not been properly socialized may be more prone to aggressive behavior when confronted with unfamiliar people or situations.
Some dogs may become aggressive when they feel that their owners or their territory are being threatened. This can be especially common if the dog perceives the vet or other staff as a threat.
How Do Vets Handle Aggressive Dogs
Vets will try to make the visit with your dog as positive as possible by giving your dog a lot of treats and praise. For very difficult dogs, the vet may use a muzzle for protection against dog bites.
What To Expect When Taking an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
A vet clinic will ask an aggressive dog owner what experiences the dog had in the past in veterinary settings. This will give the vet’s office an idea of how to approach the vet visit.
Dogs that had a traumatic experience in a veterinary setting will have the hardest time getting through a vet visit. These dogs are scared and highly defensive. The trick to overcoming those traumatic experiences is to create more positive associations with the vet’s office.
The goal will be to try to keep anxiety at a low level by making introductions and the exam as stressless as possible. This may mean extra treats, cuddling, and sweet talking.
A muzzle may be needed to keep everyone safe from any dog bits. It’s a good idea to do some muzzle training at home, which is easy. Simply put a muzzle on your dog for a few minutes each day to get used to it.
Every aggressive pet is different, so each experience is different. During the veterinary visit, the vet staff will look for subtle signs of anxiety, which is the prelude to aggressive behavior. Be prepared to notify everyone if you see signs your dog is about to attack because no one knows your dog better than you.
How to Take an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
Dog aggression is much more common than you may believe. A veterinary clinic’s staff knows how to approach aggressive behavior to ensure everyone remains safe.
Every veterinary clinic handles aggressive dogs differently. The following is a general breakdown of what to expect.
Communicate Your Dog’s Aggressive Behavior
When you book an appointment, let the receptionist know your dog often exhibits aggressive behavior. The receptionist will likely let you know what their protocol is for nervous dogs, especially in the waiting room.
Call Before Entering the Waiting Room
When you park your car in the parking lot, call the veterinary staff to notify them you and your dog have arrived – if that is the protocol.
The veterinary staff will let you know when it is safe to bring your dog into the clinic. Many times, vets will have aggressive animal owners take their pets straight to the exam room.
Hold on to Your Pup
Keep your pup on the leash and when the vet tech comes into the exam room, pay attention to body language. If your dog stiffens his/her body and begins to bark, growl, snarl, or exhibit another sign of aggressive behavior, warn the vet tech.
The vet tech may leave to get another staff member to join in the examination.
Provide Comfort, Praise, and Restriction
As the vet staff starts to build a rapport with your dog, give your pup extra comfort and praise. Keep a good handle on the leash.
If your dog isn’t able to calm down, the vet tech may use a muzzle to protect everyone from any threats of dog bites.
Work with the Veterinarian Staff
You are an important part of the examination. Your dog trusts you and positive reinforcement can keep your dog’s aggression at a workable level.
The veterinary staff will likely not put your pet on the exam table. Instead, they will remain on the floor where your dog is comfortable.
Luckily, by this point, your reactive dog allows the veterinarian to look over your dog and give your pup any necessary veterinary medicine. If not, you may need to go home and try again another day. This is especially true if your pup won’t let the vet clinic put a muzzle on your dog.
Bringing your dog to the vet clinic multiple times may help with the aggressive reactions, as long as they are positive experiences. By going to the vet’s office over and over again, your dog will form positive associations with it, and won’t be so aggressive.
Dog Tries to Bite at the Vet
Some dogs will only be aggressive at the vet, and the aggressive behavior is extreme. If your dog bites at the vet, the best thing you can do is muzzle training at home, so you can use a muzzle when you take your dog to the vet. Training your dog to become comfortable with the muzzle in a lower-stress environment and then putting it on your pup before the vet visit, will not only prevent dog bites, but it will always make taking your aggressive dog to the vet’s office easier.
What Vets Do in Extreme Cases to Handle Aggressive Dogs
Sedation is a possibility for a dog that can’t be examined due to aggressive behavior. With a quick injection, an aggressive dog becomes calm and may even take a short nap for the veterinarian.
The good news is that sedation works well with aggressive pets. The bad news is that not all dogs can be sedated. Older dogs may not be in good enough health for a chemical restraint like sedation. In those cases, dog training may be a good idea.
How Do Vets Sedate Aggressive Dogs?
Vets sedate aggressive dogs in a variety of ways, depending on the specific needs of the animal and the situation. Some common methods include:
Oral medications: Vets may give the dog a pill or liquid medication to swallow. This is often the least invasive method, but it may take longer for the medication to take effect.
Injections: Vets may inject a sedative or anesthetic directly into the dog’s muscle. This method takes effect more quickly than oral medications, but it may be more stressful for the dog.
Gas anesthesia: Vets may use a gas, such as isoflurane, to sedate the dog. This is often done in conjunction with a mask or tube inserted into the dog’s airway to help the animal breathe.
Intravenous (IV) sedation: Vets may give the dog a sedative through an IV, which allows for precise control of the dosage and rapid onset of the medication.
How Profession Dog Training Can Help with Aggressive Dogs
Professional dog training can be an effective way to address aggressive behavior in dogs. A qualified dog trainer can help owners understand the causes of their dog’s aggression and provide guidance on how to modify the behavior. Some strategies that a professional dog trainer may use to address aggressive behavior include:
- May use treats, praise, or other rewards to encourage the dog to exhibit desired behaviors and discourage aggressive behavior.
- Work with the dog to gradually expose it to the triggers for its aggressive behavior and teach it to associate these triggers with positive experiences.
- Teach the dog new behaviors, such as “sit” or “down,” as an alternative to aggressive behaviors.
- Provide guidance on how to manage the dog’s environment and interactions to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.
My Dog Tried to Bite at the Vet
Chelsey ~ our aggressive Chesapeake Bay Retriever ~ was always an issue when we went to the veterinarian’s office. Not only did she not like other dogs, but she definitely didn’t want someone she didn’t know poking and prodding her.
When we adopted her from her first family, her owner warned us that she possibly had a bad experience when getting neutered because no one could touch her on her stomach.
We definitely saw that when taking her to the vet. When the vet tried to do anything to the underside of her body, she would snap. She would have likely bitten the vets if we didn’t have a hold on her.
What we did with our aggressive pup is use a prong collar to keep her in control (she was a puller too) and warned everyone that came into the exam room that she had the potential to bite.
Veterinarian clinics see dog aggression all the time. It’s nothing new to them. If you go to a new vet and he/she doesn’t seem to be skilled at dealing with aggressive animals, find a new vet that does handle aggressive dogs.
Other Frequently Asked Questions from Aggressive Dog Owners
The following are questions any dog owners ask when taking their dog to the veterinarian.
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