A Sandhole Braveheart award goes to the lovely Hope, who first came to Sandhole as a new patient back in April for her ears to be checked by our vet Meggie. Unfortunately Hope had a history of becoming very nervous when visiting a vet following a bad experience at another practice, and simply being in the consulting room was making her very agitated. Meggie suggested examining Hope outside, but it soon became clear that the experience was far too stressful and so her attempt was abandoned.
Whilst Hope's ears needed attention, fortunately her condition was not serious, and so we recommended first taking part in a programme of socialisation in order to help Hope feel comfortable visiting Sandhole. We offer nervous patients these one-to-one sessions either with one of our lovely nurses or our fantastic behaviourist and practice manager Rebecca in order to help them feel better about coming to the vets and being around the team. Each patient is different and so we create a social experience to suit the individual circumstances of every pet. Hope was booked in for the following week for a social clinic with one of our fantastic and highly experienced nurses, Jules.
On arriving at the practice, Hope was already very stressed and sat in the waiting area panting heavily. Jules greeted Hope with treats (we go through a lot of treats in these social clinics, as every bit of progress is rewarded, no matter how small!). She was encouraged into the consulting room with more treats and even plucked up the courage to collect one from Jules before running back out. With both the consulting room doors kept open, Hope eventually managed to stay in the room whilst being given more treats and receiving lots of praise from both her owner and from Jules. Before long we were even able to close the doors - real progress!
Hope's next visit was scheduled with Gemma, who has a keen interest in dog behaviour. This time Hope came straight into the consulting room and even let Gemma touch and rub her ears. Gemma recommended that on her next visit, Hope come in with her sister Indi to help build her confidence further and make her feel more comfortable. A third clinic was scheduled for Hope but unfortunately she displayed significant signs of anxiety and would not leave the house - a result of her dislike of cars, loud noises and traffic.
At this stage, Rebecca took over Hope's programme, drawing on the skills achieved whilst completing her companion animal behaviour and training diploma. Rebecca recommended that Hope's owner start the training at home, focusing on building highlights into her day (playing with toys, going out in the garden or just having a cuddle with mum). After a week or so, Hope came back to Sandhole in order to address her fear of roads and traffic. It soon became clear that once her halti was removed, Hope became a lot more content and relaxed when being walked by the road.
Over the course of the coming weeks Rebecca continued working with Hope, forming a strong bond with her - by now she was so happy to come into the practice that she would bound into the room to greet Rebecca! So when it was time for her annual booster, Hope breezed through the appointment with no problems at all. Hope's owner is continuing her training at home and she no longer needs to come to Sandhole for social clinics.