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  • Deb Bauer

Preparing Your Dog for Vet Visits

A Golden Retriever lies on their side on a rug, a human’s hand strokes their head and ears.  Text says “Preparing your dog for vet visits.”  Background color is country blue.

It’s sort of a given when we live with dogs - at some point, they will need to visit the veterinarian. It’s not something that we tend to think about too much until the day of the appointment or when we notice a worrying symptom.

But when you live with a dog who finds vet visits very stressful, it’s so helpful to think about this ahead of time and do preparation at home on a regular basis. Every dog can benefit from this type of practice, but especially those dogs, like one of mine, that have a hard time coping on the day of the appointment.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful with my own dogs:

  • First, don’t wait until the day of the appointment. Start even before there’s a need to schedule the visit.

  • Practice at home with your dog moving their entire body onto new safe surfaces, including ones that are raised a few inches. This is to simulate the vet’s scale. They will need to step onto the vet room scale and pause there for several seconds. Teaching this at home can help start off the vet visit on a pleasant note. (Many vet offices will allow you to stop by for happy visits and you can practice getting on their waiting room scale when it’s not in use. This is also a great idea!)

  • Familiarize your dog with being touched and examined all over - even the places you might not look very often - between the toes, under the tail, in the mouth and ears, and at private parts.

  • Practice lifting your dog onto a sturdy raised surface, especially if they are smaller in size. Vets often want smaller dogs (and sometimes bigger ones) up on a table for examinations. Use a non-slip surface like a bathroom rug to make the table more comfortable.

  • Teach your dog some fun, easy to play games that can be played while waiting in the exam room - hand touches, find the treats, some fun tricks, etc. This helps pass the time when you have to wait, but also keeps your dog engaged and less likely to become anxious.

  • Teach cooperative care behaviors so your dog understands what is going to happen and can cooperate instead of being held tightly and being scared. These might include a chin rest, lying on their side, cooperating for blood draws and vaccines, and more.

Doing all of these things at home and practicing them on a regular basis allow me to better support my dogs and our veterinarian during appointments. Visits are as low-stress as possible for everyone concerned, and are more effective because my dogs are able to cooperate with procedures that need to be done.

If you’d like to better prepare your dog for vet visits and would like to learn more, I would love to help you. For a step-by-step program of teaching your dog how to cooperate for lower-stress vet visits, grooming and more, that you can follow at your own pace, check out Grooming, Husbandry, and Handling Games. You can also contact me directly for support in preparing your dog for trips to the vet.



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