Going to the vet can be a scary and stressful time for dogs. Not only are they being forced into an unfamiliar situation around other people and animals, but they may also be given shots or exams that startle or scare them. In some cases, it may be important for your veterinarian to administer treatment or to perform an exam, and during that time, it may be necessary to keep your dog calm.
- Form a good relationship with your dog. If you and your dog are closely bonded, he is likely to feel more secure just by having you around.
- Teach your dog the basic commands. Teaching your dog to respond to basic commands, such as sit, stay and come, is important for many reasons beyond simple training. It also gets your dog used to responding to you and your direction.
- Get your dog used to being handled. If your dog is skittish or shy, you may want to spend a few minutes each day just gently handling his ears and belly so he gets used to that kind of contact.
- Take your dog to the vet before the first appointment. Bringing your dog in to meet the staff and to get a feel for the office before his first exam may help to relieve his anxiety the next time he goes.
- Arrive a little early. Make sure you get to the vet early enough to give your dog a chance to sniff around outside and to do his business.
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- Keep him close while waiting. While in the waiting room, keep your dog close by, and try to distract him with a toy or treat. This may help to ease his anxiety.
- Be mindful of other pets and people. Maintain a respectful distance from other pets in the office because you do not know how they might react to your dog. Similarly, if your dog is afraid, he may act out in a different way than usual.
- Distract him during the exam. It may help to give your dog a treat that takes several minutes to eat, so he is distracted while the vet performs the exam.
- Remain calm yourself. Dogs are very sensitive to human emotions, so if you are frantic, he is more likely to be frantic as well.
- Teach your dog a “watch me” command. Hold up a treat when you use the command, and give it to your dog when he makes eye contact. You can use this command in the office to distract your dog when he is being given a shot.
The Bottom Line
Taking your dog to the vet can be stressful for both of you if you don’t take a few simple precautions. The key thing is to remain calm yourself and to give your dog no reason to worry. If you can distract your dog from the exam, you will be even better off.