Did you know that dogs experiencing stress during vet visits is one of the most common behavior issues we see? Dogs who are nervous, anxious, or overly excited at the vet is something I see frequently, so if this is your dog then you aren’t alone.
Vet visits can be stressful for our dogs and for us – but it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are four of my favorite tips for easier vet visits:
- Always bring treats. Bring lots of small, soft, and stinky treats to give throughout the entire appointment. Don’t wait for your dog to look nervous to offer them treats. Instead, give treats throughout the visit to help build positive associations. Offer treats when you arrive at the clinic, as you pass by people or other dogs, while you talk to veterinary staff, and throughout your dog’s exam.
- Communication is key. Let your vet know if your dog is nervous, shy, or excitable, and how they prefer to be greeted. Sharing this information ahead of your appointment means your vet can better prepare for safe and comfortable interactions with your dog. I like to bring written notes or call ahead with information so that my vet and I are on the same page about my dog’s needs.
- Happy visits! Schedule a few non-exam visits where your dog can explore the clinic, eat treats, and get comfortable. Happy Visits are short (5-15 minutes) and are a great chance for our dogs to get acclimated to the clinic without the pressure of an exam or procedures. Ask your vet about scheduling a time when the clinic is less busy so that your dog can sniff out treats near the scale, practice some of their favorite tricks or just see the exam room without needing to interact with vet staff if they aren’t ready.
- Advocate for your dog! Learn your dog’s needs and stress signals and communicate those to vet staff. Be your dog’s voice! The more we can advocate for our dogs, the more we can help them feel comfortable in settings like the vet clinic.
These are a few tips to get started, but there is a lot more that can go into creating lower-stress vet visits. That’s why I created the Practical Skills for Vet Visits course – to give you practical, actionable skills and knowledge that you can start implementing right away to reduce stress at the vet! You’ll learn about how to recognize signs and stress and what to do when you see them, tips for preparing for vet visits and communicating with your veterinarian, and how to teach your dog to feel more comfortable in the veterinary setting. Plus you get the added bonus of live support during weekly Office Hours with me, a Fear-Free Certified Trainer.
And if you aren’t sure if you’re ready for the Practical Skills course you can begin with the Lower Stress Vet Visits Mini Course. This mini course gives you an introduction to dog emotions and body language, tips for preparing for vet visits, and management and safety techniques to get you started.
Vet visits don’t need to be stressful – training can help!