Taking an aggressive dog to the vet isn’t easy. When we used to take Chelsey to the vet, we would just hope that no one would be in the waiting room and we held tight to the leash. While that worked, there were some other things that we learned over the years that made the event a less stressful one. Keep reading to learn how to take an aggressive dog to the vet.
Why Taking an Aggressive Dog to the Vet Is a Problem
If you have a leash-reactive dog or a dog that would love to attack any person that comes near him/her, you know why taking an aggressive dog to the vet is a problem. Aggressive behavior can do a lot of harm that could lead to injuries and lawsuits.
Dog aggression is something that many dog owners have to deal with, and the stress that it causes is a huge problem. Going anywhere with an aggressive dog is usually the prelude to a wide range of anxieties.
How to Take an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
The good news is that there are ways to take an aggressive dog to the vet easier. The following will help you make the event easier to handle.
Identify the Cause of Your Dog’s Aggression
The first step is to identify what causes your dog’s aggression. The following are some of the most common causes of dog aggression.
The veterinarian’s office doesn’t look fun. It’s usually light, airy, and cold. Most offices don’t have toys around and treats are only given when a fearful dog seems like he/she is about to attack.
Many dogs have a good memory of previous visits to the vet, which may have included getting poked and prodded. That elicits even more fear in addition to the drab environment.
If there are new people at the veterinary clinic, fear shoots up a few levels. There’s nothing more suspicious to a dog than an unpredictable human in a place where pain or uncomfortable feelings happened.
Some dogs may not be afraid until something is about to happen. The aggression may come out suddenly when the vet tries to check the ears, eyes, or mouth. Holding the body still or trying to move it in different ways can cause defensive aggression.
The problem with defensive aggression is that it comes out of nowhere, so many vets, especially new vets aren’t prepared for it. That can lead to reactions that make the dog even more defensive, which can intensify the dog’s behavior.
Alpha males often claim territory on just about any place they are, so defending that territory can easily happen at a veterinary clinic. When other dogs walk into the waiting room, it’s no wonder that other dogs with canine aggression can quickly stand at attention and even attack.
Learn More: Barrier Aggression in Shelter Dogs
Like territorial aggression, some dogs will stake a claim on their family members. That means when anyone, including veterinary staff, gets too close, they into protective aggression mode. While the dog thinks he/she is protecting the people they love the most, the attack can make the entire vet visit a bad experience.
Unfortunately, social aggression in the waiting room happens often. When two dogs are close to one another, they may immediately size one another up. If one is more aggressive than the other, an attack usually occurs.
Be Prepared for Aggressive Behavior
The best thing you can do is be prepared for your dog’s aggressive behavior. Once you know what sets him/her off, you can put blockers in place to help mitigate the situation.
For example, if you know your dog has social aggression, it’s a good idea to communicate with the vet tech on the day of the vet visit.
Book the appointment at a time when there aren’t many other patients in the waiting room. Call before walking into the waiting room. When the vet tech says that the waiting room is clear, you can bring your pup through the waiting room and into the exam room.
Meet with the New Vet Before the Appointment
Bad experiences turn into bad memories. Aggressive animals have a habit of remembering experiences well. That means if you’re going to a new vet, it’s a good idea to make the first few vet visits good experiences. This can help decrease fear aggression.
This may mean you’ll have to bring your dog to the veterinary clinic a few times after hours for a quick hello, but it’s worth it when it’s time for the appointment.
Putting your dog’s needs first during vet visits can help decrease aggressive behavior. Pet your dog often and speak in a loving, calm voice. Watch for changes in body language, so you can divert your pup’s attention if needed.
When your dog looks the other way from another dog instead of becoming getting into fight mode, praise your dog. Show your dog that you approve and move away from the stressor.
If your dog tries to pull towards a person or dog, pull back and say no in a firm voice. When your dog stops pulling, praise him for it. This behavior modification technique can teach your dog what to do and not do while at the vet clinic.
In addition to verbal praise, you may want to bring some yummy treats. Yummy treats can distract your pup from triggers to aggressive behavior. It can also turn the vet’s office into a positive experience.
Use a Product for Aggressive Pets
Products for aggressive dogs exist for a reason. You can use them to make taking your aggressive dog to the vet easily. This is especially true if you feel you may not be able to prevent dog bites.
Many people are against muzzles, but if worn correctly and not all the time, they are useful dog products. Muzzles should never be strapped on too tightly. They should be comfortable and let the dog lick his/or her lips.
Basket muzzles are the best muzzles for aggressive dogs. They provide a comfortable fit and let the dog move his/her mouth while wearing one.
Since many aggressive animals become more rageful when they are confined, it’s important to do some muzzle training with your dog. That means putting the muzzle on for a little while each day leading up to going to the vet’s office.
Always praise your dog after putting the muzzle on and taking it off. It should be a positive experience so that when you use it to go to the vet, he/she won’t fight to use it.
The good news is that the muzzle can be used in other situations, such as at the dog park. This is the best muzzle for dogs with aggression:
You can also use a muzzle for excessive barking. Learn more here: Muzzle to Stop Dog Barking at Night
If muzzles aren’t your thing, you may want to consider a prong collar. It can help hold on to your pup easier.
Many dog owners believe the prong collar hurts dogs, but they don’t necessarily hurt the dog in the sense of causing harm. It does go into the skin (without piercing) which can cause discomfort. That is what keeps the dog from lunging forward more or continuing to pull.
If you are interested in trying a prong collar, you can buy one below.
If you’ve used prong collars before and they didn’t work in keeping your dog from pulling, consider alternatives identified here: Dog Still Pulls with Prong Collar
Seek Professional Help for Your Dog’s Behavior
Dog training is always a good idea for a reactive dog. While canine aggression can’t always be prevented, a dog trainer can teach a dog what is appropriate behavior when feeling anxious or fearful.
Professional help can help a fearful dog cope better with the outside world, which will help you better cope with having a reactive dog.
And yes… even older dogs can benefit from a dog trainer.
Now you know how to make taking your aggressive dog to the vet easier. Let’s recap.
How to Take an Aggressive Dog to the Vet
- Call the veterinary office before leaving home.
Call the veterinary office to let them know you’re on your way and your dog is aggressive.
- Let the vet tech know you’ve arrived when in the parking lot.
In the parking lot, let the vet tech know you’re there. Ask the vet tech to let you know when the waiting room is empty
- Use a prong collar and/or muzzle.
Place a prong collar and/or muzzle on your pup. Lead your dog into the exam room.
- Give positive reinforcement and treats.
During the exam, give your pup a lot of positive reinforcement and yummy treats.
- Trust the veterinary staff.
Allow the veterinary staff to exercise their knowledge and skills to care for your reactive dog.
See also: How Do Vets Handle Aggressive Dogs
Take the following steps to make taking your aggressive dog to the vet easier.
Stay strong. Be confident. Tend to your dog’s needs. Veterinarian care is important and you’re a great dog owner for ensuring your furbaby is safe AND healthy.
You can receive more help with your dog’s aggressivness by reading: CBD for Aggressive Dog