Fear at the Vet: Examining Risk Factors

Mar 1, 2021

dog scared veterinarian

A guardian’s ability to identify and respond to their dog’s body language appropriately as well as understand the dog’s triggers for stress can play an important role in the reduction of fear and/or stress experienced during a visit
to the veterinarian © Can Stock Photo / smrm1977

BARKS: How important is the behavior of the guardian in the context of attending the vet; was this found to have any influence on the dog’s behavior/emotional state?

Petra Edwards: Behavior of the guardian wasn’t investigated in the above study (Edwards et al., 2019b), however Csoltova et al. (2017) found that guardians patting and interacting with their dog in a positive and supportive manner had dogs that showed fewer signs of fear than guardians who did not interact with their dog. I love this because it also beautifully discounts that myth that being kind and empathic to a fearful animal will reinforce their fear.

I believe guardian behavior (positive supportive interactions, good preparation with reinforcers, non-slip mat, arriving with enough time to allow the dog a good chance to sniff before entering the clinic, or pre-training for cooperative care), will have a very large positive impact on their dog’s behavior and emotional state within the clinic.

(Issue 46, January 2021, pp.41-45). Read article