How to Keep Dogs Calm at the Vet Exam

by Sandra King
    Your pup will find it easier to trust the vet if he trusts you first.

    Your pup will find it easier to trust the vet if he trusts you first.

    Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

    Intelligent creatures naturally stress over the thought of allowing a white-coated, albeit friendly stranger to get up close and personal enough to check eyes, teeth and ear health -- and your dog is no exception. In addition, he smells the fear in all the potty accidents left behind by those anxiety ridden canines who came before. Fortunately, you can help soothe his nerves long before you drag him out of the car and across the parking lot to the vet's office.

    Step 1

    Teach him basic obedience commands such as sit, down, stay and heel. Work with your dog two or more times a day for short sessions so he learns to obey these commands without hesitation. Use positive reinforcement and plenty of praise so he trusts your guidance, even when you're leading him into the vet's office.

    Step 2

    Add to his basic obedience training by teaching him to turn around, lie on his side and lift his paws on command. These skills mimic the positions your vet may place your dog in during an examination. Teaching him to move himself saves him the stress of being pulled and pushed around by strangers.

    Step 3

    Reserve a few minutes every day during play time with your furry friend to lift his ears, rub his tummy and otherwise get him used to being touched everywhere, including his mouth and feet. Imitate the motions a vet would use to palpate his abdomen, clip his toenails or examine his eyes so he becomes familiar and relaxed with the process.

    Step 4

    Drop by the vet's office to meet and greet the office staff so your pup can visit without the pressure of an exam. Call first to make sure you vet's office welcomes social calls and what times are best. Pop by the office every few months, especially if your pooch only sees his doctor once a year.

    Step 5

    Arrive a few minutes early on the day of the exam so he can sniff and potty before entering the clinic. He won't be able to relax if his bladder is full and, like most kids, dogs sometimes forget to go before leaving the house. Use the grassy strip most vet offices provide for this and clean up any solid material he leaves behind.

    Step 6

    Keep him sitting close in the waiting room. Take his mind off what's going on around him by giving him a favorite toy to chew or treats to nibble. Ask fellow dog owners or office staff not to excite him with high, squeaky greetings if that sets your dog off.

    Step 7

    Distract him during the exam with a small jar of baby food that uses up several minutes to lick clean. Find and scratch that sweet spot on his back or behind his ears that he can never quite reach while the vet does her thing. If you've taught him the “watch me” command, you can get his eyes off the needle and on you when it's time for vaccinations or blood work.

    Tips

    • You’ll help your pup the most by remaining calm yourself before and during the exam since he’s looking to you for support.
    • Teach him “watch me” by having him sit in front of you. Hold a treat close to his nose for a sniff then move it close to one of your eyes and say “watch me.” As soon as he makes eye contact, give him the treat. Practice daily until he follows the command without the treat incentive.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    A medical writer since 1990 and successful home-based business owner for more than 14 years, Sandra King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She uses her formal education, professional insight and extensive volunteer involvement to cover topics on health and fitness, pets, parenting for a lifetime, building healthy relationships, conquering business basics and developing career goals.

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