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From Woofs to Wows: Master the Art of Keeping Your Dog Chill at the Vet

Visiting the veterinarian can be a scary experience for many dogs. The unfamiliar smells, sights, and sounds can create a lot of anxiety, causing your dog to become fearful and anxious. My own dog Max has struggled at the veterinarian after a particularly traumatizing visit. Helping him has been a journey but we have made progress and so can you!

If you are struggling with fear at the veterinarian or groomer, or want to prevent your dog from becoming overwhelmed and fearful, reach out to me at or fill out my behavior consultation request form to get help today!

Start with positive associations

One of the best ways to help your dog feel comfortable at the vet's office is to create positive associations with the experience. Start by bringing your dog to the vet's office for non-medical visits, such as for a quick weigh-in or to pick up a treat. Reward your dog with treats, praise, and toys to help them associate the vet's office with positive experiences.

Familiarize your dog with the vet's office (often called happy visits)

Familiarize your dog with the vet's office by taking them for short visits before the actual appointment. Allow your dog to explore the waiting area, exam room, and any other areas of the vet's office. Reward your dog with treats and praise to help them feel more comfortable and at ease.

To make the most of happy visits, call your vet office ahead to ask if there is a good time for you to come. A less busy time of day may be better for your dog.

Use positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement training is an effective way to help your dog feel more comfortable during vet visits. Teach your dog basic obedience cues such as sit, stay, and fun tricks or easy cues like a hand target.

Asking for fluent behaviors with a strong reinforcement history can help your dog feel happy at the vet and can be used by you as a gauge of their internal state. If they easily respond to their known cues they are probably feeling pretty good. If they hesitate or do not respond they are telling you there is a level of discomfort, fear or the environment is simply too distracting for them to respond. Either way, it is good information for you to have.

Cooperative Care Training

Teach your dog husbandry at home. This includes familiarizing your dog with body handling and common positions used by veterinarians and staff during exams and procedures your dog may need. You can also prep them for injections, blood draws and needle aspirations, eye drops, nail and paw injuries and much more.

Teach your dog a Consent in Care protocol that includes foundation behaviors or “start buttons” so your dog can have some agency during their care. This can help dogs feel more confident and more cooperative during care procedures. This will be the topic of an upcoming BLOG post!

Use calming aids

There are various calming aids you can use to help your dog feel more relaxed during vet visits. Some examples include pheromone sprays, calming collars, and anxiety vests. One popular pheromone is Thundershirt has calming wraps and many other calming products

In conclusion, visiting the vet's office can be a daunting experience for a fearful dog. However, by using positive reinforcement training, familiarizing your dog with the vet's office, cooperative care training and using calming aids, you can help your furry friend feel more relaxed and at ease.

Remember to stay calm and relaxed yourself, and always speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog's behavior during their visit.

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