Table Trauma: Preventing Animal Hospital Horrors

(Dog Sports Magazine, 4/99)

Anyone wishing to contact John may do so at the following address:
Beyond Obedience K9 Training
15 Cliff Court
Succasunna, NJ 07876
(973) 927-7387
Copyright © 1999

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” -Edwin Louis Cole

A few years back I walked into an animal hospital for my dog’s yearly (knock on wood) visit. Upon entering the office, a situation unfolding that was very funny to me, but could pose a very serious problem to others. A woman, looking terrified, was holding a large GSD on leash in one hand, with a muzzle in the other. The dog looked ready to explode at any minute, which created quite a feeling of tension in the room. Just try to imagine the scene in the examining room. Two (or more) vet techs trying to pin this dog down, just to get the muzzle on him to give him his shots.

Animal hospital workers get bitten more than a decoy at a two-day trial, but nothing is done about it. I spoke to the vet who simply stated, “we try to hire big kids to work here to handle certain problem dogs, but you can’t always find them.” I was stunned. I made a few suggestions to save some of the technicians an emergency room visit or two.” “Damn, I never thought of that,” he said. I added, “why don’t you start by putting up a sign, IF OUR DOG HAS A TENDENCY TO BITE, MUZZLE THEM AT HOME!!!

We are back to the old problem dog-problem owner scenario. We’ve all heard this before, “my dog is great … until it’s time to go to the vet.” Do you really believe the dog knows where you’re DRIVING to?? Unbelievable. Again the owner is prepping the dog to be stressed. The notion that your dog knows whether you’re driving to the vets or to a friend’s house is ridiculous.

The following is a method I recommend and have had great success with. Take your dog to the vet a couple of times, weeks before your yearly (hopefully) appointment. Consider your attitude and demeanor on the drive there. Are you relaxed and cracking jokes? Or are you tense (like your dog will be)? Walk in to the office, all the while praising your dog. Have someone (planned in advance) behind the desk say hi to him/her, throw them a treat, and be on your way. This works volumes on many dogs suffering from table trauma. Discuss this precaution with your vet. I’m sure the staff will truly appreciate it. When you get to the examining room, relax. Crack a few jokes. Hopefully the vet is relaxed. Dogs can sense tension quicker and better than we can.

Every time I go to the vet, the staff actually argue as to who gets to be in the room!!! And we’re talking a male Rotty and two APBT’s!!! My dogs LOVE going, because I created an atmosphere of relaxation.

It would be relatively easy to get any dog to show aggression to someone poking and prodding them all over their body. Consider the dynamics involved if this was a human: You are a child. You’re being brought to the dentist for the first time. As soon as you get in the car your parents keep saying, “d-d-don’t worry, it’s not going to hurt to-o-o-o much.” Then when you get to the office, two guys come out, grab you, drag you into the dentist’s chair and hold you down!!!

Getting the picture of what your dog goes through? Then the doctor comes in, gives you a needle or two, causes discomfort, smiles and says, “see you next time.” Now do you really think on your next visit to the dentist you’ll be relaxed???? Right. Same with your dog. If you have a dog that you really can’t control, then please, “MUZZLE THEM AT HOME!!!

In the sport of French Ring, heeling with a muzzle on is one of the exercises. So maybe once a month, throw a muzzle on for maybe a half hour or so (don’t forget to give them a piece of steak before and after), and practice some obedience exercises. Now the dog will not associate the muzzle with the animal hospital.

This is vital. If you only work your dog on a decoy with a muzzle, what do you think your dog will think he gets to do to the vet??? Right. That he gets to kick some butt today. So work the obedience also.

So on your next visit to your animal hospital, consider some of these scenarios I’ve described. Try to help out these vets and technicians that are on the firing lines every day. Give them a break. And more importantly, give your dog a break.