Dog Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
33 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

Had an upsetting trip to the vets today with my dog Zephyr. He is a rescue dog and had a difficult first 18 months before coming to me (often starving, lots of hostile dogs, possibly kicked and generally neglected). Anyway he has come on tremendously in the 18 months I've had him and focuses really well and knows 20 commands (which, given his history is pretty awesome for him!). He is a worrier, bit hesitant in general, but likes people a lot, especially kids, is very popular and has never shown any aggression in our family and social life. He is at work with me most of the day and lies around relaxing, only getting up to ask my coworkers and visitors for a pat. So basically he's fantastic... ;)

However, he has now had two experiences with vets where he totally flipped out. Today he needed an injection. I said to the vet that I'd been advised after the last injection (which they couldn't do in the end because he flipped out) that it would be better if I was in another room, because maybe he was feeling my nerves. He went off with the vet and I waited, for ages. Then the vet came and said they had finally managed to inject him but he had needed three people to hold him down. As soon as they tried to go behind him and touch his neck or back he freaked out, and the longer it went on the more 'scary wild dog' he became - totally terrified and aggressive, poor thing. The vet acknowledged that this forced injection wasn't going to help him enjoy the vet in the future, as it was a very scary experience. But it was an important injection so we had no choice. She said that it is common for a rescue dog like him to fear being touched on their neck as that is where a dog will attack him. He may well have experienced this in his early life, I just don't know.

I am so concerned that he has developed this fear of vets and that his reaction to an injection is so fearful and aggressive. I have spent many days and weeks and months working on his general confidence and his ability to relax in all different situations and he's done so well. He's very obedient and focused and a very fast learner. But this side to him makes me worried for his future, like if he bites someone in a state like he was at the vets.

Is there any way I can train him out of something like this? The vet suggested a long process of desensitisation involving touching his neck and back etc which I would cheerfully embark on if it helped him. The confusing thing is that I FREQUENTLy touch his neck and back in general life and play and he doesn't have any reaction - he trusts that I won't attack him I suppose. He also knows a trick where he comes round to stand between my legs and looks up at me. Surely this should be something that scares him, as i am leaning over him with access to those areas? He also doesn't have any kind of crazy reaction when other people in his life touch him on his neck or back - only the vet.

Anyway, sorry this is long but I'm so worried about what might happen to this great little dog if we don't address his fears and work on them. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,652 Posts
hm~ Sancho is also not happy about being at the vet.
he just doesn't like getting touched by strangers, if they're adults.
generally it's better with females though.
he has now one vet, he accepts without problems. with the other he growling a little, but we managed to get him stop going ballistic at least, when one of the family is at his head side, massaging the ears.

i guess one way to make it better could be, to ask the vet if it was possibile for you to visit his office from time to time and they could just pet the dog and give a few treats, so that it gets more normal for the dog to go there and get touched my the vet.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
10,820 Posts
What you'll need to do is counter condition him to wearing a basket muzzle, and also to being at the vet, finally to having the vet staff work with him.

I'd start with with muzzle since you can do that at home. Make sure to take it slow, and use high value treats. Break putting it on into small steps and get him used to each step before moving on to the next one. I'd also practice having him wear it in different locations, and use high value treats at each location.

With the vet call ahead and let them know what you'll be doing since eventually you are going to need them to also work with him. Figure out where he starts to get nervous, is it in the parking lot, by the door, in the waiting room,,,, Stay at that place feeding him very high value treats (something he absolutely loves), and do so day after day, until he's happy to be there because he gets those treats, once he's there move a bit closer to your ultimate goal of the exam room and repeat the process. I'd aim for maybe 5 minute sessions. Once you have him comfortable in the exam room then it's time for the vet staff to also work with him.

With the vet staff if he's alright with him just being in the room with him then have them feed him treats, if he's not then you'll be the one feeding him the treats at first. When you have him happy to see them then they can start by touching his chest or back and giving him a treat. Again y'all will be slowly working up to what he's terrified of, having them be behind him and touch his neck. Break the process down into small steps, work each until he's happy to have it done, then move on to the next one. When he's good with them handling him like hey need to for the actual shot, if he does not food guard, fix up a Kong with some extra good, stuffing like peanut butter, mixed with meat, or maybe sweet potato, or yogurt mixed with meat (whichever flavor he loves) and have him lick at that while he receives his shot.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AthenaLove

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
First off good on you for taking in a rescue! That right there says a lot about your character and you very obviously care about your dog. That being said. Forget about his past.

You said he's a fantastic dog! Thinking about any negative anything, and inciting anxious/fearful feelings in yourself regarding the vet situation, is totally going to rub off on your pup. They are very sensitive to your feelings and emotions no matter how subtle. YOU personally have to have yourself in check and balanced before even attempting to bring your dog into that state of mind. So kick any all fear/negativity on your part out the window because it will he tremendously!

Rain and mathilda gave sound advice. Ease into it, go to the vets just to say hello to the staff. I think that's why the vet is one of my 180lb mastiff Hank's favorite places. Also there is a tech there that lost her mastiff a couple years ago and enjoys getting to hang out with one on occasion. Doing this will also help you be more relaxed in the environment with your dog. It will prove to both of you that this is a good place and not to be feared or cause anxiety just walking in the door.

Is there a reason you will leave your pup with the vets to give a shot? My pups I'm sure would not be as comfortable being handled by anyone if I weren't there to support and comfort them. If they ever need to be restrained, I take responsibility for that. The trust you have built over the last 18months counts for nothing in this situation if you aren't there to advocate for your dog and comfort him.

By restrain I mean soothe. Believe me I don't kid myself when it comes to restraining a 180 lb mastiff. If he really wanted to fight me or get up/away I couldn't stop him. But because I am there in a calm state of mind and I' holding him and comforting him, he is much more accepting of anything else that's going on whatever it might be. Post is getting long so I'll end here.

TLDR; Your dog is an emotional mirror. Calm yourself and help your dog to be calm. Ease into it and convince both of you it's a good place where good things happen.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,022 Posts
I would be livid if my vet (or three of them for that matter!) held my terrified dog down and injected him - I'd MUCH rather have my dog go under GA until I could properly accustom him to vets offices if it was so extreme he needed to be held down by three different people. That sounds extremely traumatizing and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it takes you a very very long time to get your dog back to where he was with the progress you had made.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
33 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks so much for the thoughtful replies. They are full of useful advice! I agree Cos, it's just an awful experience for him and who knows what effect it will have had. The reason he needed the shot is that we are both moving back to England from Australia in a few months and he has to have the shot to be allowed in the country. It's a time critical shot (21 plus days before travel) so it had to be done. Once we have moved he will have a brand new vet (and everything else!) so we will start in earnest with the counter conditioning.
Thanks for the words of support EverythingEnglishMastiff. I feel like a terrible owner at the moment :( I think it's exactly right that he mirrors my feelings. And because I know this I think I create nervous energy for him - he's like 'why are you acting so weird?!). So I will work on that... I left him with the vets alone because the previous episode he had with a (different) vet they said he was much calmer when they walked him away form m to another room. But ether way looks like it didn't make any difference this time.
Rain (and Mathilda) that is really sound advice about the vet, thanks. I never thought of getting him used to a muzzle but that would be very useful for sure. He is very trusting of me and tolerates things like party hats and bowties on occasion, so he could be persuaded to try a muzzle I think!

He is well used to counter conditioning in other areas of his life - mainly things like getting used to loud noises and other dogs on the street, both of which he is fine with now on the whole. As I said, we are moving overseas, but I will prioritise making the vet a great place to go, once he is settled into his new life. It's a real shame he had this bad experience at a time of big changes in his life.

Fortunately I love him to bits and I have no worries about finding the time or the inclination to do whatever I need to do to help him with this. I just didn't know how! So thanks again for the advice. Even if it takes years, at least we know where to start, and we can get going.

Cheers everyone :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,884 Posts
@cos putting a dog under general anesthesia is not any easier. It also requires an injection to either administer an IV anesthetic, or to administer a pre-med or induction, because putting it on gas without is not very nice. So the dog would still require just as much force to be held down. To use gas alone, your dog would have to be held down even more and forced to wear a mask on it's face for 5-10 minutes before it goes to sleep. They struggle and feel like they cannot breath. There's just no point to GA if it's just for an injection because you're not going to avoid traumatizing the dog or using force in any way, shape, or form.

Anyway, to the OP, you'll just have to work hard to counter condition and desensitize the best you can. It'll involve lots of trips to the vet for no reason other than to give some treats and hang out. I also agree with muzzle training, just for safety. Chances are, they muzzled him in the back anyway. Next time he needs anything done, if he's already used to the muzzle, it'll be one less stressful thing.

This website has lots of good resources on conditioning to a muzzle: The Muzzle Up! Project | Keeping dogs and their humans happy and safe

You can also work on having strangers handle and touch him too. It's much different for a dog to have a stranger touching him in weird places than the owner. Sorta like how it's ok for our significant others to be in our personal space, but we're sorta creeped out if a stranger gets too close. Our dogs trust us, so of course they're going to be more ok with us handling their feet, tail, ears etc.

Also, I would request that they NOT remove the dog from you too if it can be avoided. Especially now that you know for sure he's no better away from you. The more you work with your dog, the more he will trust you. Which means you may some day hit a point where he might be uncomfortable and nervous, but if you are holding and restraining him and telling him it's ok, he will believe you and accept what the vet needs to do. It is true that with some dogs and owners, they just can't be in the same room when we need to do something. They freak out because the owner is freaking out. Sometimes they're better away, sometimes they're not.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,661 Posts
I second working on counter conditioning him to having strangers touch him. Also you may want to try dropping in for "fun" visits at the vet and also discuss with the doctor about an at home sedative just in case. Ace-vet, and sometimes just gravol, is commonly used with aggressive patients.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grabby

·
Registered
Joined
·
33 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the suggestions Tigger and Kay. I think the muzzle idea is great - he will have no idea a muzzle is viewed negatively by lots of humans - he'll just associate it with yummy treats!
Also great advice about having strangers touch him (in a controlled way). I think he would really benefit from that. And yes, I'm kind of regretting that I let them take him away without me there for him :(

Thanks everyone. Apologies for replying late, I live remote and we don't always have internet.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,437 Posts
Chriag Patel has a great muzzle conditioning video. Also look at Sophia Yin's videos on counter conditioning a dog to touch. Many other videos and descriptions on the web of counter conditioning to husbandry. Look for those by Yin and Jean Donaldson.

When you relocate, do a lot of happy visits to the vet clinic you plan to use.

Kay Wilson, do you mean acepromazine? I know you have experience in a clinical setting but Karen Overall and others agree that this drug is not recommended for fearful dogs. Acepromazine | Fearful Dogs
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top