Obviously, dog trainers understand the importance of socializing and training our dogs. We all go out of our way to ensure that both of these things happen. Trainers spend a huge amount of time just observing dog’s behaviour, which entails how they move and how they physically communicate and interact with each other. After a certain amount of time the ability to recognize what state of mind the dog is in, by recognizing the body language demonstrated, becomes a reflex. As do most abilities with enough time, opportunities to observe and practice.
So, one day I was walking around my property with my dog Logan, a Belgian Malinois. At that point in time he was around 10 months old. I notice him not moving as freely and quickly as he normally did. I always love watching him run as he has such a beautiful structure and therefore, movement. He was and still is very agile and graceful. Yet as I was watching him on my property, I notice he wasn’t pushing off his right hind leg and for brief moments he would hold it up and even limp. Straight away I was very concerned and immediately book him into to see one of the vets that I use. My vet Barry is a musculoskeletal specialist so the perfect person to see for this issue. After Barry examined Logan he had ruled out any cruciate ligament issues but he had done some damage to the tissue and ligaments around his knee. Which now meant that he would have to be regularly assessed and have ongoing treatment. Because of the treatment involved needling and back adjustments, there was some discomfort and pain for Logan.
Logan is a super happy and confident dog, there is very little in the world that bothers him. Yet after a few consultations, he began not to like Barry. He would never be aggressive but would definitely avoid him. This meant I would have hold Logan by the collar so Barry could examine and treat him. We had to do what we had to do and that was final. Logan is always happy to go absolutely anywhere and meet anyone, I just love his enthusiasm and love for life. As far as he is concerned everyone should love him and he pretty much demands it. In a nice way of course. Now Logan is now 6yrs old, he will enter the vetenary building with no problem at all yet he still does not like the vet.
I have spent much time waiting in veterinary reception areas and I have seen way too many fear related issues. Many are specifically related to the veterinary practice. I always remember this one particular day when I saw a Newfoundland absolutely overcome with fear. I could see he had both front paws up and on the door frame and was refusing to enter the building. I could see the white in his eyes. While most people thought this funny and cute, including the staff there. I was not impressed at all and my heart went out to this gentle giant. So I approached the owner who was clearly struggling with her dog, introduced myself and offered if I could help, which she happily accepted. I took the dog away from the building, calmed him down and explained what was really going on for him to the owner as the dog was in quite a manic state. I spent the next 10 minutes or so calming him down and got him into the surgery without too much more drama.
Luckily for Logan, he’s extremely robust and recovers from stress very quickly, unlike a lot of dogs. Unlike Logan who has learned to manage his behavoir at one of his less favorite places, the Newfoundland had such a severe reaction to even entering the veterinary practice let alone being treated. I could hear him in being treated by vet and his person desperately trying to handle and calm him down.
As with us, memories are created and feelings and reactions, they can be good bad or indifferent. Depending on the dog's genetics and prior learning this will govern how the dog reacts and copes to any environment
The reality is that many dogs completely untrained or undertrained and have very little social skills. This very much limits their coping skills. The other issues is the introduction to this environment. Normally as a puppy and being vaccinated, microchipped prodded and probed by a complete stranger and this is normally the first trip away from home. So as you can see not a great way to introduce any dog to this environment. Over time we compound this issue even further hence we get the reaction that we have created.
Prevention is always better than the cure. In my introduction to the vet I always get my vet to come to me as there are plenty of mobile vets and are usually cheaper than going to a surgery. Plus it allows me to control exactly what goes on to ensure I am obviously not creating a negative association. I also do quick visits to a veterinary surgery as part of my socialization. It’s just a quick hello to the environment and staff without the pup being examined.
With a little bit of care and forethought, we can help eliminate any issues that could arise.