Making Veterinary Visits Better for Your Dog

We have all seen owners and/or trainers who have taught their dog, bird, horse or cat to do amazing things.  Birds with huge vocabularies, bike riding dogs and dancing horses.  So how hard should it really be to teach our dog to tolerate a visit to the vet??  If you’re willing to invest a little time, you can train your dog to be a happier patient.

It’s all about practice, practice, practice.

  • The first place your new puppy should visit is the veterinary office. The very first visit should just be to say hello and get some treats. Use the second visit to make sure they are healthy…
  • Get your puppy used to having his/her feet handled at home. Start by holding a paw then move on to grasping a toenail. Even if you never plan on clipping nails at home, get your pup accustomed to the clipper around their feet.  Remember to use lots of treats and praise! 
  • Teach your puppy how to take pills before they actually need to.  Have your puppy sit sideways next to you or on your lap if they are small.  Place one hand around the top jaw with your thumb and middle finger behind the canines.  Use your other thumb and forefinger to gently open the lower jaw.  Now just place a small treat or piece of cheese in the mouth on the tongue.  Do this a few times and you shouldn’t have any trouble when the time to actually medicate comes along. Today there are even specially made products to hide pills in that most dogs love!
  • Handle your puppy’s ears, clean the area around their eyes, lift their tail and run your hands along their abdomen. Desensitizing your pup to handling is one of the kindest things you can do for them.
  • Teach your dog to stand quietly.  Much of a veterinary exam is done with the pet standing.  If your dog is accustomed to standing calmly beforehand the stress level will go way down.  Again, use treats and gentle praise to let your dog know they are doing the correct thing.
  • Teach your dog to walk on a leash.  If your dog is out of control in the waiting area things will only go downhill in the exam room.
  • Once your pet is protected by vaccines, schedule a puppy class and/or doggie daycare. A well socialized dog is a stable dog.  
  • It’s OK to bring something from home. A toy or blanket work fine.  The familiar odor of home is calming.
  • If you‘re nervous your dog will be too.  Whatever you feel telegraphs directly to your pet.  Some people can’t actually be in the room with their dog.  That’s OK.  Just don’t let your limitations make things more difficult for your pet.
  •  If your dog acts up on the exam table please don’t stroke them and tell them everything will be OK.  Even though it seems reasonable to you it is actually rewarding negative behavior.  Remember your dog has no idea what you are saying he just knows he’s getting good feedback so his bad behavior must be fine with you.
  • When you’re done with your visit take your dog for a short walk around the outside of the clinic before you get in the car.  This will allow them to relax at the clinic not in the car as they are leaving.
  • Finally, don’t let going to the vet be the only time your dog gets in the car.  Make sure to take lots of fun rides as well where you can both relax and enjoy yourselves.