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Puppymill rescue dogs support group! Message Board › Tips for Veterinary Visits with Your Dog

Tips for Veterinary Visits with Your Dog

Group Organizer
Washington, DC
Post #: 164
Courtesy of Jeni Grant of Train Your Best Friend
Tips for Veterinary Visits with Your Dog
By Jeni Grant BA, CPDT-KA
Nothing goes bad quicker and has such lasting traumatic effect on your dog as a vet visit gone wrong. I had a dog that would shake like leaf at the vet office visits his whole life due to many visits when he was young for chronic digestion and ear problems.
If you have a puppy, condition them to like vet visits right away go to vet office give high value treats like boiled white meat chicken or other meat. Classically condition your pup to the handling that will happen at vet visits while feeding treats. Always bring food and select a vet office with gentle, patient techs and vets. Minimize handing at first and stay within pup’s comfort level. Usually it is the being pinned down that creates the trauma but table could be scary, as well as tight space, smells, strangers, strange equipment, etc. I encourage you to condition nail clipping at home with food very gradually and NOT have it done at vet office since this also tends to get fear reaction, if not classically conditioned carefully. You can use bathmat on table for pup to be more comfortable. See my blog for puppy training for more on this. http://trainyourbestf...­ (If you have pup, continue reading below since there is more good information.)
For those with adopted dogs or dogs & pups that are already afraid of vet visits and I know there are a lot of you:
1. Remember it is unfair to judge a dog by how he behaves in vet office since many dogs are ONLY terrified or aggressive at vet because past traumatic experiences.
2. Be sure you speak up for your dog and don’t allow any rough handling. See Karen Overall’s interview about how little behavior training vets receive in their training.­
3. I recommend you trim your dogs nails or teach him to file his own. See my videos on teaching dog to file own nails and classically conditioning grooming.­­
4. Remind everyone at office that your dog is afraid and you want to minimize stress as much as possible. This includes setting appointment at quiet time and minimizing time of visit and handling.
5. Ask them to call you on cell phone or wave out door to tell you when you can go directly into exam room instead of waiting in lobby as stress builds. Also give them your credit card or check in exam room so you don’t have to linger after vet visit.
6. Bring over the top great food like cheese, deli meats, squeeze cheese, boiled chicken. Bring lots and a variety. I bring cooler full of food. Feed dog throughout visit if he will eat. Feed in car if he won’t eat during visit.
7. If your dog is growling or there is worry of a bite, better to classically condition plastic basket muzzle you can feed through with squeeze cheese or long thin pieces of meat than have tech do a lot of forced handling. Remember forced handling creates the worst trauma. Practice often at home at gradually getting dog used to plastic basket muzzle with food. Do this very gradually. You want them to love the muzzle and not have it add stress. I suggest basket muzzle so your dog can pant and eat which are both very important. You can order muzzle at After conditioning muzzle put it on snuggly through collar so there is no chance your dog can paw it off.
8. I recommend staying with dog when they take blood. I don’t let them take the dog in other room with strangers to take blood. I have always been in room with my dog. Your dog trusts you.
9. If you have an extremely fearful dog, you may want a gentle mobile vet to come to your house for simple things like shots but you will need vet office for emergencies and surgeries.
10. Don’t just go in car to go to vet or groomer. Going in car will often become terrifying because it predicts vet/groomer visit. So take car trips regularly to happy locations like quiet park or playdate with doggy frie nd.
11.Don’t be afraid to switch vet offices. Some vets are just better at being compassionate with fearful dogs. Don’t be afraid to take your dog and walk out if you are not comfortable with what is happening at vet. Believe me you will be the one living with the results of rough handling. If you can, do complain if you are not happy with how your dog was handled.
12. Also look for quiet office where your dog will be relaxed. I quickly switched vets from busy chaotic office and chose a small office where the staff is quiet and kind.
13. Try driving to vet office and giving treats and leaving. Maybe walk around parking lot. If office is quiet ask if they have time to hand your dog a couple treats in lobby if your dog is ready for this step.
14. Classically condition all the handling that will happen at vet while feeding at home. Always working gradually within your dog’s comfort level. Do hold for examining, look in mouth and ears, move hands along body, raise tail, etc.
I hope these tips help you move towards as stress free vet visits as possible. You may also want to see some of my other videos on body language and collar handling on my site

user 3975851
Brookeville, MD
Post #: 9
I bring the dog's favorite food and I turn the vet visit into a fun training session where I ask for downs, stays, sits, touch, look at me's, etc.

It's fun for the dog and it occupies their mind on training instead of letting them get worked up with fear. Ideal compliance isn't really important since it's not about that.

But of course, some dogs may be so terrified that they may be too shut down to participate in it but it's worth a try.
Jeni G.
user 13281887
Santa Fe, NM
Post #: 2
Yes, if your dog is feeling okay enough to do some of his tricks for treats that is great. I suspect many on this list would be too scared for that but maybe down the road as they progress.
A former member
Post #: 1
Great tips!

If we can give fearful dogs a foundation of skills, they take them with them wherever they go. The world becomes a much more predictable place. The basic husbandry handling skills are important, being held, having their ears, eyes looked at, etc., but other behaviors like sit, down, stay, getting up on something (scale) also transfer. If they have been trained using reward based techniques, anytime they are cued for a behavior it is a 'feel good' experience because the cue and the behavior have been associated with a reward. If they have a few vet visits which are not fun (few are), but not uber horrible, they can build the tolerance to survive blood draws, ear checks, anal squeezes, etc.

My own super scared dog gets off the table, shakes off and sits and looks at me for more tricks to perform.

It's always worth asking a vet about an appropriate anti-anxiety medication which could be used prior to a visit to help cut the terror a bit. I am sure that is what has helped my own scared dogs get to the point of being manageable at the clinic. I used to take my dogs to a drive-thru for a burger afterward, but my team of dogs now can't handle the face in window :(

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