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Thoughts on the Vet Clinic Waiting Room

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

If you follow our Face Book page you’ll know that our eldest whippet Alfie suffered a major injury to his leg back in September. With well over 20 visits to the vet in the last four months (I stopped counting!) I’ve clocked up some hours sitting in the waiting room of a large and bustling clinic. All the waiting and watching people coming and going with their animals led me to ponder the ways in which we should be behaving to make each visit as easy as it can be for both our own dogs, and any others that may cross our paths during the visit.

So, here are my thoughts.....

Pay attention to your dog at all times, they are your priority. If they seek eye contact for reassurance, make sure you acknowledge it. If your dog is whining, panting or showing other signs of distress then comfort them with calm, quiet words and gentle touch. Remain connected (and try to stay off your phone).

Give everyone space. The waiting room is not a place for meet and greets. The dog next to you may be nervous, elderly, in pain or all of these at once. Keep your dog close to you at all times and be thoughtful about how you and your dog move through the clinic.

Go easy on the obedience commands. Unless you have specifically practiced certain behaviours in the clinic, like sit and wait on the scales, then expect your dog’s response to otherwise known commands to decrease. This is normal – the clinic environment can be an exciting, stressful, over stimulating, scary or crowded place for dogs. Dragging them onto the scales and repeating ‘SIT’ at an ever increasing volume probably won’t help their emotional state.

Control your exuberant adolescent. Don’t allow them to bound into the clinic while you are dragged in holding the end of the lead (did you notice everybody stepping away from you?). Use calm, quiet body language and a short lead to reduce their movement and lower their excitement. Leave your retractable lead at home.

Take food. Unless your dog is having surgery use food treats generously, both to reward calm behaviour and to associate the clinic with good things. Use them when walking into the clinic, while waiting for your appointment, when meeting the vet and while uncomfortable or scary procedures are being undertaken. One treat as you walk out is not sufficient to change behaviour or build positive associations.

Leave your reactive dog in the car. If you have a very reactive, aggressive or fearful dog then let the nurses know you have arrived and then wait in the car with them until the vet is ready to see you. Muzzle them before you come in if you need to. Some days the clinic was running 40 minutes behind schedule – that’s a long wait in a small space for anyone.

And lastly....don’t point out to someone that their dog looks old, sick or sad. The dog may be all of these things but, I can assure you, their human doesn’t need you to remind them of this.

Alfie Whippet, aged 12 years.

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