Updated: Oct 11, 2022
When I was told in the vet's waiting room my dog was dangerous and getting aggressive I cried. I cried for my dog, who was in pain. I cried for the vet and the assistants who had to deal with a dog 'like that'. And I cried for myself for 'having a dog like that' and 'not having done better'. Lenyx was 7-ish months and broke his toe during a random game of fetch. Nothing weird happened. He probably just put his back foot down wrong. My dog went from sweet pup to protective aggressive dog. We weren't allowed to even come near that foot. He'd snap and snarl, bite the air and he actually hid in a corner of the room for a while when we first thought he stepped in a piece of glass or a grass seed perhaps. He was in some serious pain and the toe ended up being amputated.
The journey towards amputation was a hard one though. He was dangerous. Would trash around, headbutt and threaten everyone coming close to him with biting. He had to be sedated several times.. For x-rays but also just for changing a bandage. He needed a calming tablet beforehand so he wouldn't instantly blow up. It didn't help that we have to keep an energetic 7 month old on nearly 'bed rest' and couldn't take him out besides for car rides in the car to sniff the air.
At some point, I can't remember at which stage, the vet said it was enough and we needed to put proper training in him or he couldn't be treated anymore without staff being in danger. I was emotional and sad and I felt for my poor dog, who I knew was just doing it all out of pain. But, we got on with it. We called up several trainers the same day. We needed help. Help with him being okay being touched by strangers.
Help with him being okay just walking into the building or consultation rooms. Help with him being 'relaxed'. A dog park friend who is also a dog trainer, Donald Hill, helped us out. He came in and did a session with him on muzzle training and taught us how to start making him feel okay with touching on his legs again and gave us heaps of tips on how to move forward. He was, really, Lenny's life saver. And really, he also is the reason I went into dog training. His way of working was so calm, reassuring and awesome to watch that I instantly thought 'This is what I want to do.'The effect was immediate. We could do something to help him and the next weeks we were at the vet nearly every day. Just a few minutes at the time; interacting with the staff, throwing treats around the waiting area. Treats in the consultation rooms, having staff pet him and talk to him. Everything to make the vet visits about positive associations and not just bad ones. We'd sometimes just sit there watching people and their pets and Lenyx would sniff around and sit there getting treats for just being a good boy. It paid off. We put a lot of work in and we have an amazing vet (Thank you to Dr. Sarah! + all vet nurses) who allowed us to come in so often without actually having to 'be there'.
Lenyx now goes to the vet without issue. He cries before hand because he is excited. He greets everyone like long lost friends. He does get suspicious still but this is more a 'insecurity' thing. He doesn't threaten. We have come to the agreement that when he needs treatment he goes in the back with the staff and we stay in the main area because he is a lot more difficult if I'm around. We love that he has changed so much. We now hear that he's a good boy and a smooch (and still a bit of a drama queen) but he's come so far.
This post is for EVERYONE that has a dog that struggles at the vet or groomers. There ARE ways to teach your dog to cope with it. There is MANY of different options that may work and make the vet a less stressful situation for your dog AND you. How? Desensitisation. 1. Work on muzzle training. Everyone deserve to be safe at work. 2. Visit the vet regularly for no reason. Go there and do something fun. Play a game, do some training, give them a few treats, go there after or before a walk. Make every visit positive. 3. Work on your dog's confidence with touching. Regular massaging and rubdowns or box work will be incredibly beneficial. A trainer can help you with this.
If you want any additional information, just want to talk or think you might need professional help, feel free to message me via my facebook page or firstname.lastname@example.org