Ruby is Gavin’s first Great Dane: he was brought up with smaller dogs, such as Collies and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. He was first attracted to the Great Dane breed when he saw a rescued male Great Dane who was looking for a home on the Dogs Trust website. He wasn’t able to take on that one, but when he heard about Ruby, he decided that along with his wife, he’d be able to care for her well. Ruby had originally lived in a family home, surrounded by children and other animals, but they’d decided that she’d find more fulfilment in a household where she could have more dedicated attention. Gavin was delighted to give her this focus, and so she moved into his home.
That was three years ago, and she has settled in well. Her daily routine starts at 6am, when Gavin takes her out for a run in the local park for nearly an hour. She is a sociable animal, enjoying running around and playing with other dogs. She’s huge, at over 50kg, making her ten times the size of some of the dogs that she plays with. She’s never rough or aggressive with other dogs: she may have the body of a giant, but she has the temperament of a small lap dog.
Ruby snoozes at home, lying on the couch, for the morning, going for another short walk at lunchtime, and then for another 45 minute run in the evening. She loves her life, and she’s loved by the humans who share their lives with her.
There is one aspect of Ruby’s life which she doesn’t much enjoy: going to the vet. She a fit, healthy dog, and she rarely needs to go to the vet, which is partly why she is nervous. She isn’t familiar with the vet clinic, and it’s a strange and frightening place to her.
The single big experience that she has had so far was when she was spayed. This was a day-procedure: she arrived at the clinic in the morning, had the operation during the day, then went home the same evening. Her operation went well, she was given the usual high doses of pain relief, and everything proceeded as planned. But for Ruby, it was a big deal: she didn’t have her usual day on the couch. Instead, she was in a new environment, with human strangers all around her, as well as an assortment of unfamiliar animals, sounds and smells. Dogs have strong emotional memories, and for Ruby, this day seems to have left a long lasting impact.
She has only had to go back to the vet on a couple of occasions since then, and while nothing frightening has happened (other than a general examination, which some dogs don’t like), Ruby was still anxious on each occasion. She is calm and well behaved with Gavin beside her to reassure her, but she trembles and glances anxiously around the room. It’s obvious that she’s feeling uncomfortable about being there.
What can be done to help her? It’s possible to give dogs anti-anxiety medication before events that make them feel nervous, and there are pheromone sprays that help dogs to feel reassured.
Strangely, however, the best answer would be for Ruby to visit the vet as often as possible. To get over her anxiety, she needs to have frequent, positive experiences at the vet. If Gavin is able to call in to the clinic just to say hello, the receptionists could get into the routine of greeting Ruby with kind words and perhaps a few treats. If this happened several times a week, Ruby would begin to enjoy visiting the vet, and her anxiety would disappear.
Perhaps it’s time for Ruby to have a new daily walking route: via her vet clinic!