I used to go in often and weigh the dogs to get them used to the vet visit. Now I don't. I am sure this isn't true of all dogs, but for me, if I am frustrated or nervous, the dog will have a rougher time of it. If I am confident, the dog manages the situation perfectly well regardless of vet-socialization, smells, wait-time, etc.
When I would take Cujo to the vet, he was fine, never acted afraid or anything. When my dad took him in, it was always reported to me that he was scared. Hmmmmm. My dad was raised Christian Science and has a fear/discomfort of anything medical.
There are three approaches to undesirable fear-based behavior:
1. Coddling, telling the dog it is ok (even though it is clearly not ok), petting, hugging and otherwise comforting the dog.
2. Ignoring the behavior. Standing your ground and letting the dog carry on until he gets over himself.
3. A quick correction, "Eh! Cut that out!" accompanied or not by a leash correction.
And it just depends on the dog. Some dogs will take that coddling to mean that they are truly about to murdered and be twice as terrified. Others will find comfort in the reassuring presence of their owner, but it will do nothing to help the dog build its own confidence level. I think it is likely to prolong the scene and have other scenes similar to it with some dogs.
Ignoring the dog's behavior and letting it work it out, will reinforce the fact that barking, whining, scratching, reverse sneezing, and otherwise acting up will not get the dog what it wants -- outta there. The dog will come through the situation alive and may be less concerned and worried about the whole thing on the next visit.
A simple, firm correction might bring immediate results. "Oh? You don't want me to bark? Ok." And that MAY be the end to it. On the other hand, if there is deep fear going on, and the dog continues to be in deep fear, just is not expressing that, the dog might be pressed beyond its threshold without letting you know it is getting near its threshold. But I think most dogs are perfectly ok with a correction for something like this. They are not murdered, the next time they come in, it is old hat, and the correction just cuts short the unpleasantness during that visit.
Whenever my dogs have endured something unpleasant at the vet, like getting the hair plucked around a wound, or getting shots, or getting an injured limb examined, I ask the vet or tech if they could give my dog a treat at the end of the ordeal. They always do. It is not like the dog looks forward to getting a treat, but I make sure that the visit ends on a happy note for the dog.
Over and above everything else though, I use a no-nonsense approach, and my dogs all go in without a struggle, without fear, I can put them on the scale and get their weight, I can hand them over and tell them, "Go with her." And they will. They do not growl or bark or carry on. And I really think it is because I am not over there exuding fear pharamones that my dog can smell a mile away.
Jenna, RN CGC & Babs, CD RA CGC HIC
Heidi, RA CGC
SG3 Odessa, SchH1, Kkl1, AD
Ninja, RN CGC & Milla, RN CGC
Joy, Star Puppy, RN CGC
Dolly CGC & Bear CGC