Do you have a dog that is scared of the vet? Doing some simple training, beforehand, and when at the vets can make things much easier.

Today was that time of year my dogs – Tiger, Kiri and Ecko, and my bank account, dread – annual vaccination boosters. I am aware there is some debate around at the moment over whether it is necessary, or indeed harmful to vaccinate dogs on a yearly basis.  However, after recently hearing of several local dogs (adult dogs, not young puppies) becoming ill from diseases which vaccinations protect against, I would rather have the peace of mind of knowing my dogs have some protection.  So, off to the vet we went. In our classes we regularly get asked what owners can do when their dog is scared of the vet.  There are some simple behaviours that you can teach your dog, which will make the whole experience more pleasant for both of you.

what to do when your dog is scared of the vet

Teach your dog to enjoy vet vists and being handled and examined

As a little challenge for myself I decided to make a mental note of how many different ‘obedience class exercises’ my dogs used on their vet visit.  I must add that I was taking all three dogs to the vet at the same time, a challenge in itself!

The first exercise was door control, on the van door.  My dogs travel in a secure crate, through learning door control they know that when the crate door opens they must stay inside, this gives me time to clip their leads on and is also a safety precaution in a busy car park.  They then jumped out and stood close to me whilst I shut the door and locked the van.  We also used door control on the entrance to the vets, so there was no lunging into a busy waiting room.

Once in the vets I got them one at a time to get on to the scales, they know that ‘on the mat’ means get onto whatever I am pointing to, once on the scales I asked them to ‘sit’.

In the waiting room they did a ‘down’ and also a ‘quiet’ when the sight of the vet nurse popping up from behind the counter set them off barking.

Once inside the consulting room they all ran to the drawer where they remembered the treats were kept, and without being asked they all sat and waited for a treat! They seemed to have the vet well trained as she duly responded.

During the consultation they did a ‘stand’, to keep them still whilst being handled and checked over by the vet.  In our classes we always emphasise the importance of teaching your dog to enjoy being handled.  This is extremely important on a vet visit, it makes things so much easier, quicker and stress-free (for you, your dog and the vet), if a dog will allow themselves to be handled all over.  The handling involved lifting their lips and opening their mouths to check their teeth, checking inside their ears, checking their eyes, feeling for any lumps and bumps, listening to their heart with a stethoscope and feeling their tummies.

My dogs also did a ‘nose to my hand’ target whilst the vet gave them their injection, this is a great way of providing focus and distraction for your dog, whilst ensuring you have control of their head.

I must add that being happy to co-operate at the vets was not an easy stage my dogs to get to.  All three of my dogs have had serious illnesses and/or have had to have surgery at some point throughout their lives, this lead to them being very scared of a visit to the vet and it has taken a lot of positive reinforcement training to not only get them used to being treated, but actually enjoy it to some degree.

So, what to do when your dog is scared of the vet? Some training before and during the visit will make life easier for all involved!

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Ami Sekhon
Ami Sekhon is the owner of Cheshire Dog School, which offers dog obedience training, workshops, home visits and much more in and around Warrington, Cheshire. Ami has been involved in dog training for many years and she also enjoys successfully competing with her own dogs in Agility and other dog sports. In 2016 Ami won the Enterprise Vision Award in the North West in the Training and Coaching Category and is a 2017 finalist for the Solo Business award. [more]