Teach Your Dog To Love His Vet

Does your dog hate the vet’s clinic? It is common for dogs to have a fear of veterinarians. There is plenty of poking, prodding and other unpleasant things happening during your dog’s typical vet visit, so it’s no wonder he dislikes it. On the flip side, there are many dogs out there who absolutely love going to the vet. Have you ever wondered why? Here are some ways you can get your dog to love the veterinarian.

To prevent your dog from shaking and whining every time you pull into the veterinary clinic parking lot, start training him to show him that the veterinarian’s office is the greatest place in the world when you first bring him home. This training obviously works better starting as a puppy, but any dog can benefit from having positive experiences at the veterinary clinic.

Follow these steps for a dog whose tail starts wagging when you reach the veterinarian’s office:

Get your dog used to being handled: Many dogs will not accept handling by a stranger, especially if they were not well-socialized as puppies. It’s even worse if the type of handling is very unfamiliar. You can start doing small things at home to get your dog used to the feeling of a vet exam. First, familiarize yourself with the process of a basic vet examination. Then, conduct your own version of it at home. If your dog becomes used to being touched and handled in unusual ways, he might be more accepting of it from a stranger. He will likely do even better if you carefully and gradually introduce him to the strangers (the vet and staff).

Visit your vet just for fun: Talk to your veterinarian about bringing your dog in for a few quick visits. Most clinics allow this as long as you don’t abuse the privilege.

Take your dog for a car ride or walk to the clinic. Get excited about it and reward your dog for getting a little excited or simply being calm and relaxed. If your dog’s reaction is positive, go inside the clinic, meeting and greeting the staff up front. Everyone should be happy and calm, making sure not to overwhelm your dog. Treats should be given if your dog can tolerate them.

If you notice your dog is getting nervous, it’s time to leave. The first few times you do this, it might be as simple as breezing through the lobby for 10 seconds. Eventually, you may notice the wagging tail as you approach the door. When ready, try scheduling a simple appointment for something like a basic exam.

Spend a few minutes in the reception area feeding your dog treats, then leave. The more often you can do this the more effective it will be, but even once a month can be effective.

After your dog has had a few positive visits just receiving treats, have him get on the scale, feed him some treats, and then leave.

Once your dog has had a few positive visits at that level, have the veterinary technicians feed him treats. Ask if you can take him back in an examination room. Feed him treats in the room and then leave.

Repeat these steps until your dog struts into the veterinarian every time.

Pet parents must be calm at the vet: Your dog is deeply intuitive about your emotions thanks to the close bond you share. Your own feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear can be easily perceived by your dog. You might notice your dog’s anxiety, stress or fear, then get upset yourself. Your dog senses this and thinks he has a valid reason to be upset.

To avoid this, try to remain calm and upbeat during vet visits, regardless of how your dog acts. As hard as this may seem, try to avoid reinforcing your dog’s fear, stress or anxiety. Believe it or not, petting, coddling, or soothing your nervous dog with your voice actually reinforced his emotions. Instead, maintain your composure, acting positive and upbeat. Do your best to ignore the fearful or anxious behavior. If you act like everything is just fine, your dog might get the message!

Some tips to remember:

  • Always leave on a positive note. If your dog has a bad reaction, or is frightened by something, find an area where he’s willing to take treats—even if it’s outside the office. Don’t leave right after your dog has reacted or been frightened by something.
  • If your dog is afraid, wait until he calms down a little before leaving. He should offer you some type of relaxing behavior, such as sitting, sighing or shaking off, at some point in the visit. When he does that, reward him by leaving.
  • If your dog is extremely fearful, you have more work ahead of you. Consider feeding him his meals there a couple of times per week.
  • An extremely fearful dog might not be able to enter the building during the first few sessions. If he starts shaking when you pull in the parking lot, start by rewarding him for calming down while still in the car. Work up slowly to going inside the building.
  • If your dog is aggressive towards his vet teach him to wear a muzzle several times in a day for short spans of time as practice. So he will allow muzzling at the clinic

Why your dog must love the vet:

  • A dog that is fearful or aggressive towards his vet will not allow a thorough physical examination which could lead to an inaccurate diagnosis.
  • A dog that is fearful or aggressive towards his vet will always be stressed and will end up biting either the vet or you.
  • Despite restrictive measures such as use of muzzles or more handlers a dog that is fearful or aggressive towards his vet will thrash around thus injuring himself in the process.
  • Remember your vet is only trying to help your pet. A pet that allows a thorough physical examination gets an accurate diagnosis