The Scary Scale

by: Jennifer Oldfield

As an adult when I think scary scale, I think of the number that comes up when I get on!  However to our pets, the scary scale is that horrible thing they have to get on when they come in to the vet.  So why is it the process of getting weighed can be such a challenge for some pets?

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A person’s view of the weigh-in area.

In many veterinary hospitals the scale is in a spot where it is against a wall on at least one side.  In our clinic the scale has walls on 2 of the sides.  When we look at it from our perspective that doesn’t seem as though it should be an issue for a dog.  It isn’t right against the walls, it is still fairly open feeling.  There is also the small step up to get on to the scale, which again, doesn’t seem like much to us.  However we need to look at things from a different perspective, from a dog’s perspective.

The first part of the dog’s perspective we need to consider is the visit in general – whether it is the first time or the 100th time your dog has come in, there are many factors that affect how they feel about it;

  • There are the smells (many of which we can’t detect)
  • The potential noises
  • Other animals/people in the waiting area
  • Their experiences from previous visits (if this is a return visit)

Then as they come over to the scale they see;

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Your pet’s view of the scale.

  • Walls, preventing their ability to escape
  • A raised surface, that looks much higher from their perspective and appears to be floating
  • When they touch the scale they will feel it go down slightly, which can be scary if they are movement sensitive
  • Plus, if you are uncertain of getting them on the scale they will sense that and feel, if you are concerned, they should be too

So, how can you resolve this and make the scale a quick and easy task at the vet?

The first thing is to take your time.  There is normally no need to rush this process.  If your dog likes treats, we have some available to use, by all means, do!  If they have other treats that are their favourites at home, bring them!  If your dog is too stressed to take a treat, then encourage them on the scale and praise them when they get anywhere near it.  Even if they only have one foot on, let them know “yes, good dog”, this is a step in the right direction.  (pun totally intended).  You can definitely touch them while they are on the scale (without applying any downward pressure).  So pet your pup under the chin, give them a few scratches, let them know they are doing a good job.  Have them stay on the scale for a little bit, give praise and/or cookies then let them off.

A couple things to try your very best NOT to do:

  • Don’t worry about getting them on the scale.  Remember, if you are worried, they will be too.  If they are worried about people in their space, our team member will back off to a point where she can read the weight without being close enough to make your dog concerned.  If they are concerned about getting on in general, let us help, and take your time.
  • Do your very best NOT to use their leash and collar to pull, drag, or lift them on to the scale.  All of these actions will likely make it more stressful and far less enjoyable for your pet.  Plus, dragging them over can get their toes caught under the scale, which will definitely not be fun for them and make them hate the process even more.
  • Don’t panic – if there is another pet in the waiting room that is making getting a weight difficult or if your pet is just too excited when they first come in, let us know.  We can get you into an exam room first and then either weigh them after the excitement has settled down, or at the end of your appointment.

We strongly encourage clients to bring their pet in just for the purpose of getting on the scale, getting a cookie or some love and leaving.  Every time you do this, the scale becomes a fun part of the process of visiting the vet.  This definitely works best with young dogs, however at any age you can work to teach your dog that the scale isn’t scary.  It is just another game in the game of life.

Electra practices getting on and off the scale whenever she comes to visit:

 

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