has developed fear of the vetBeautiful Jack Russell Jojo is nine years old and the friendliest, easiest little dog you could hope to meet.

Unfortunately she has developed a fear of the vet. She was taken for her regular yearly check and vaccinations but went into a flat panic.

Why, after all these years?

She has never enjoyed being at the vet but has tolerated it. The previous year she saw a different vet who, seeing she was uneasy, got down on the floor with her and all was well.

That previous time the waiting room had been full and busy. Sociable Jess was very happy with that.

This most recent time the waiting room was empty and quiet.

Sudden direct approach into a quiet room.

The vet came out of his room and walked directly towards Jojo. She immediately went and hid under the lady’s chair. Most unusual.

I see two things here. The appearance of the vet into the quiet room may have been a bit sudden. The direct approach towards Jojo will have scared her.

Then, when carried into the vet’s room, Jojo struggled frantically to get out of the lady’s arms as she was lifted her onto the table. They couldn’t hold her sufficiently still to do anything and had to give up.

It looks like she was sensitised to the actual vet himself by the manner and suddenness of his approach. It’s very likely, however, that in addition to fear of the vet she will also now be sensitised to the whole premises.

Maybe another time he can be asked to stay in his room and maybe the receptionist can send them in – or maybe just put his head around the door instead?

Direct advance can be intimidating. See this – the Pulse Project.

A dog can be a lot more confident if a person is already in a room, seated even, when the dog enters.

Getting over her fear of the vet.

The lady will now be working on getting Jojo not to have fear of the vet but to positively like him instead.

They will break a vet visit down into the smallest increments. This is a framework:

  • Have a word with the receptionist. Find out the best time of day.
  • Short walk first – fifteen minutes max. Keep it relaxed if possible.
  • Park outside vet. Walk around the immediate area. Drop food on the ground as they pass the vet’s step. If she’s totally chilled with the area around the step, open the door next time. If not, keep on walking past each session until she is.
  • Next, with lead long and loose, walk in. She can follow if she wants. Turn around if she’s not ready. If she goes in, feed her. Ask the receptionist to feed her. She’s such a friendly dog she will love a fuss.
  • Let her wander about. It would be good if the surgery room was empty and she could go and walk around there too. Make good things happen – special food.
  • Do these things several times on several different occasions.
  • When she is very comfortable, lift her onto the table and feed her there. It would be best of all if she could be taught to jump into the lady’s arms then put on the table. She can then have a choice. If she doesn’t jump up, she doesn’t go on the table.
  • Eventually they may be able to arrange that the vet is in there already. She can walk on a loose lead so she can escape immediately if she wants to. The vet also could feed her (she wouldn’t eat last time – much too scared). The vet did in fact recommend me for helping Jojo so I’m sure will be happy to help.

What led to Jojo’s fear of the vet can be diagnosed fairly accurately, so we know exactly what it is that needs to be reversed. It’s not what a vet does with her that scares Jojo but the vet himself. With some work and with the help of the vet, little Jojo should go back to tolerating him again – maybe even liking him.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jojo and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)