Dogs Trust

Tips for Taking your Dog to the Vets

Not many dogs enjoy a trip to the vets so we have a few tips to make it less stressful for you and your dog:

Get your dog used to being ‘examined’ by incorporating it into his training; lift up his ear for example and then give him a treat for allowing you to do so, then progress this over a number of days to looking in his ear for a few seconds.  When he is examined by the vet, it won’t feel so alien to him and he is far more likely to tolerate the examination well.

Take your dog to the vets regularly to be weighed and have some tasty treats for the Vet or Vet Nurse to give him for sitting nicely on the weighing scales.  Not only will this allow you to keep an eye on his weight, he will associate the vets with a pleasant experience.  If you only ever bring him when he is sick or needs a vaccination, he will associate visiting with unpleasantness. 

If possible, take your dog for a long walk prior to your visit so he is tired, has toileted properly and is more relaxed. 

Keep him on a short lead while at the vets so he is less likely to bound over to other pets that might be ill, feel threatened or are even prey to him, such as rabbits or cats.  If his visit allows it, treat him with nice, smelly high value treats for staying close.  Keep your focus on him and speak to him in a low, calm voice.

If your dog is reactive to other dogs, or is reactive when he is on the lead, ring in advance and ask if there is a quiet time available where there will be less or no other dogs present.  Some veterinary practices allow owners with reactive dogs to enter via another door or wait in a separate room so as not to stress out the dog, his owner and the other pets waiting to be seen.

Leave plenty of time to get to the vet’s in case there is a traffic jam as this will help you keep your own stress levels to a minimum and erratic driving can contribute to your dog’s anxiety and even cause motion sickness. Listening to a talking book or classical music can be very calming for your dog, so choose a suitable station or have a CD handy in the car.  Calming doggie CDs are available online.

Spraying Adaptil, a calming pheromone for dogs, on your dog’s harness and in your car 15 minutes before setting off can help calm your dog as can the use of anxiety vests – both can be found online or in pet shops.

Training your dog to do simple tricks can really help in the vets as fun is incompatible with fear so bring lots of tasty treats and ask for lots of high fives, sits, downs etc. which may even help other owners relax looking at your wonderful pooches’ repertoire of tricks!

If your dog gets extremely stressed out attending the vet; speak to your local practice, they may be in a position to offer a home visit or in extreme circumstances offer sedative medication that can be taken prior to the visit.  Also speak to a reputable behaviourist to see if there is a training method that can help with this.