VET’S DIARY: You can spot those puppy party graduates a mile off

LET me tell you, there is nothing quite like that feeling you get when you’re just finishing dealing with a client and you hear the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ kicking off in the waiting room outside your door, writes Dominic Plumley.

Of course, your first thought is for the other people and their pets that are sharing reception with the snarling creature that looks like it hasn’t been fed for a month and is ready for raw meat!

Everyone sits motionless, trying to avoid eye contact. Things are about to turn nasty when the Yorkshire terrier belonging to the old lady in the corner forgets that it’s only 15oz wet through and decides now’s the time to tackle a 200lb Rottweiler!

Thankfully you step in and call the terrifying beast into your consult room while everybody outside breathes a collective sigh of relief.

It’s about now that your thoughts turn from them to yourself.

In truth, the whole situation arises from fear and not just your own!

Let’s face it, most pets wouldn’t put the vet’s at number one on their list of favourite places to visit.

Firstly they are lulled into a false sense of security, duped into thinking they’re going for a walk, bundled into the car and then unceremoniously herded into the surgery with a less than supportive ‘come on old boy, you know it’s for the best. It’s going to hurt me more than you, ha ha.’

If that’s not bad enough, they are made to sit in a waiting room full of unfamiliar smells and even less familiar fellow patients, a proportion of whom are particularly grumpy because they’re sick.

Now that they’re feeling relaxed, they’re dragged in to see the vet who pokes and prods them, sticks something in every orifice, then more often than not jabs them with a needle! I hope you’re starting to have a little sympathy for the Rottie.

All in all, the whole experience is very negative and critically very memorable for the animal concerned. So how can we fix this? Well, the answer is puppy parties.

Dogs are pack animals and by their nature consequently very social. Managing that social behaviour is vital in many ways, not least in ensuring that they become stable, well-assimilated pets.

Their behaviour develops throughout their lives, allowing them to adapt to changes within the pack as they happen.

However, the majority of the basic ground rules are learned when they are puppies, particularly from about eight to 16 weeks of age, and if we are careful we can utilise this to shape things to come.

For several years now we have been running weekly parties open to all pups that have received their initial inoculations.

Hosted by Judith Dunn, with more years of dog training experience than she cares to remember, assisted by our veterinary nurses, frequently Inge Oliver, the parties are a great opportunity for pups to experience the vet’s in a fun atmosphere.

There are numerous benefits, the attendees get used to other dogs, allowing development of relationships without hint of aggression as well as familiarity with the surroundings. For the owners, there’s plenty of good advice about feeding and training of their young charges.

As the years have passed all of these pups have matured into cherished pets and without fail we can spot the party guests.

To a pooch they are that little less anxious while waiting to see the vet. In fact, most bowl in full of fun, looking for their pals.

For Judith and Inge, the real satisfaction comes from the individuals that started life with genuine problems, from aggression to separation anxiety, even just wetting the bed! But thanks to their help, they have developed into top pets.