Early experiences can colour an individual’s perception of life long into the future.
Unfortunately, as we often only see pets when they are feeling poorly or for procedures, they can form a correlation between the vets and negative experiences.
Our reception team are lovely and will try to make it more appealing to your pets with fuss and treats, but there will be a lot of scents ingrained in the practice from other pets that have become fearful – so there can be a lot to try to counter.
If you know your pet is easily spooked, or just needs a little extra time or slower management, please let us know, either at booking, or on arrival at the practice.
Early signs of your dog becoming distressed can be easy to miss as they can be very subtle. Here are a few examples of stressed behaviour:
- Increased blinking
- Nose licking/lip licking
- Turning head/body away
- Rolling on their back in submission – interestingly, often mistaken by an owner as a friendly manoeuvre, wanting a tummy tickle is actually an act of appeasement.
These are the early stages on the ‘Ladder of Aggression’, developed as a visual guide to chart how dogs progress their behaviours in response to stress.
When the earlier stages don’t give the result they expect, such as the threat backing away/easing, then they will resort to higher level steps in order to cope. As you can see, they become more aggressive the higher up the ladder we go.
Ideally, if we can reduce the stress in the earlier stages, and understand our pet’s body language better, we can help to reduce the stress for them.
Cats can be harder to assess behaviourally due to being transported in a cat carrier – but signs of distress in cats include:
- Dilated pupils
- Ears held low or backwards
- Turning head away
- Heavier breathing
- Whiskers back
- Tail held tight to body or underneath
- all the way up to hissing, spitting and striking out
Ideally we want to avoid all of these. Being a cat friendly clinic, we have pheromone plug-ins running in the cat waiting areas, a separate cat area to keep away from dogs, and areas to place their cat carrier at a height.
Cats will often feel more stressed if kept confined in their carrier on the floor, rather than being up high, so this is what we try to recreate.
At CVC we try to take a kind approach, with a behavioural point of view being kept in mind.
We can offer advice on low level behavioural conditions for your dogs and cats, but full identification of deeper-seated issues and anxieties can be beyond the realm of the first opinion practitioner.
Fortunately, we do have a nurse with additional training in behaviour, but this is still only appropriate for milder anxieties.
If a patient needs a higher level of behavioural management, assistance should be sought from an appropriate behaviourist.
Unfortunately, to be called a behaviourist doesn’t require any additional qualifications currently, but we would always recommend referral to a member of the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians (FABC), Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) or The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) – due to the rigorous nature of the study they must cover to become members.