Pet Project: Help your pet stay calm during vaccinations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 11, 2014

Vaccinating your dogs will not affect their behavior, unless they contract one of the diseases/viruses that core vaccines protect them from. But there are things you can do as an owner to help your dog handle the vaccination process better.
The most important thing you can do for your dog is to be calm. If you are anxious or nervous when your dog goes for vaccines, your dog will sense your energy, watch your body language and become nervous as well.
Here’s an example: It is similar to when you excite your dog with energy to do something fun. You raise your energy level; you may raise the tone of your voice and use playful body language or say things like “You want to play ball?” or “You want to go for a walk?” Then, your dog becomes excited, jumps, wags, barks or dances around as if to say, “Let’s go.”
You transferred your energy in a way that was obvious to you. But, dogs and cats are experts at reading energy and body language. And, even though you think you are masking the signs, you can also create nervous, anxious or fearful energy in basically the same way.
When you are nervous, fearful or anxious, your energy, body language, facial expressions and the sound of your voice also transfer that energy to your dog. I personally believe that our own pheromones play a part as well, since a dog’s sense of smell is almost beyond our comprehension.
So, how do I calm myself so that my pet will be calm? Practice! You can practice gently restraining your pet with a hug or hold from above their back like veterinarians and vet techs do.
Do not talk to them or excite them — just be calm. Use a soft calming touch to scratch or gently rub their chest as long as it does not excite them. While this is desensitizing your dog to being restrained, you are also training yourself to be calm.
Lastly, don’t be upset if your veterinarian or vet tech wants to muzzle your dog or cat. It is not an insult. They handle dogs and cats all day long and know how to recognize fear.
Of course, they don’t want to be bitten, but your veterinarian also wants to prevent your dog from crossing that line and being labeled “a people biter.” Once your dog bites a person for any reason, the memory of it and obligation to disclose that information to anyone who comes into close contact with your dog will be there forever.
A muzzle does not hurt your dog and usually calms a dog long enough to be examined or vaccinated. And a muzzle will definitely allow you to be calm because you know your pet can’t bite anyone.
When the visit is over, you and your dog have had a calm uneventful visit, and the dog will associate being calm to being at the vet. It will be one more positive training session in your journey to help your dog be calm and happy.
Vaccinations in dogs and cats have for years been a basic standard of care to prevent common diseases. Vaccines trigger protective immune responses in pets and prepare them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents.
Vaccines can lessen the severity of future diseases and certain vaccines can prevent infection by close to 99 percent.
However, a common misconception is all dogs and cats need all vaccines. Not so — every pet should have their lifestyle evaluated by their veterinarian. Their vaccination plan should be customized to meet their risks based on exposure to parks, pet stores, groomers, campgrounds, competing in dog/cat events, walking down the street in neighborhoods with many dogs/cats, etc.
Nina Dix a professional dog trainer/behaviorist. Send questions to