Dog In Waiting Room

Practice waiting rooms could be the cause of fear-related behaviours in dogs, research suggests

Dog In Waiting Room

Environmental factors such as the layout of a veterinary practice waiting room, could be the cause of fear-related behaviours in dogs, rather than fear of the vets themselves, a pilot study conducted by a Hartpury University academic has found.

Izzy Riley - Lecturer and Programme Manager for the Diploma in Professional Studies Veterinary Nursing at Hartpury, carried out the study in which she explored how the environmental variables of a waiting room can influence the expression of fear in dogs in veterinary practices. The study, titled A pilot-study review of the impact environmental variance in the waiting room may have on canine fear-related behavioural expression,’ showed that dogs demonstrate a higher level of fear-related behaviours before the consultation than after, and that aspects of the environment such as the flooring type, high footfall and noise levels play a part in increasing fear responses in dogs.

Data from a total of 54 dogs aged one to 10-years-old was obtained across five of the practices during a two-week period. Patients were  scored according to their behavioural expressions on entering and exiting the consultation room to determine their level of fear. These scores were then evaluated in relation to the design of waiting room the dogs were in to identify key factors that influenced patients’ behaviour. 

All patients expressed a significant reduction in mean behavioural scores between what was observed pre-consultation and post-consultation. This included  a decrease in behaviours such as cowering, lowering head, eye avoidance, lip licking, low tail, trembling, whining/crying and a reluctance to move.

Environmental variables including flooring, seating arrangements, distance from reception desk, natural lighting, visual, audio and olfactory (smell) stimulants were reviewed as aspects that may influence the patient experience in the waiting area. Positive and negative scores for each aspect were assigned to  practices based on the conclusions of prior research. Of the five practices utilised for data collection two received negative overall environmental scores and also evidenced the highest pre-consultation behavioural scores. In these two practices, a significant reduction in post-consultation behaviour was identified, suggesting the waiting rooms’ potential impact on behaviour.

As a result of its findings, the study suggests that control of environmental factors should be considered along with looking at the set-up of waiting rooms from a patient perspective.

“It’s exciting to be able to share the results of my pilot study within this area of practice and design,” says Izzy.

“It’s interesting to consider what aspects of practice could be manipulated to positively influence how dogs perceive waiting rooms in practice. By attempting to reduce fear in our patients we could improve access to practice and medical care, broaden treatment options and reduce injury rates to owners and staff.”

Hartpury University’s Veterinary Nursing department has been involved with a number of conferences and research projects this year. Suzannah Harniman recently explored the need for wellbeing support for student veterinary nurses across the sector, while Carol Gray highlighted a need to increase awareness around the use of home dental care products for dogs.

Veterinary Nursing at Hartpury

Student veterinary nurses at Hartpury apply theory in a real-life setting through a variety of seminars, lectures, research and debate. 

The Diploma in Professional Studies Veterinary Nursing, led by Izzy, is the only one of its kind in the UK providing a fantastic opportunity to achieve university-level expertise (other two-year veterinary nursing qualifications are usually college/further education-level) whilst qualifying as a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Registered Veterinary Nurse. Students will need to be working in a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons-approved veterinary nursing training practice while studying this course.

If you love research, check out Hartpury’s range of veterinary nursing degrees, all accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

If research is your thing, check out the BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing and BSc (Hons) Equine Veterinary Nursing degrees. The thing that sets these programmes apart from most other veterinary nursing qualifications is the research dissertation in the final year. This allows students to pursue an area of interest and to contribute to real-world practice.