Is your dog afraid of the vet? They're not alone. Even if your vet is unwaveringly kind and gentle to your pup, dogs are sensitive creatures and the smells, sounds and general unfamiliarity of the vet’s office might be enough to put them on edge. Fortunately, with some understanding and a few training techniques, you can help your dog overcome vet-related fears.
Why Dogs Fear the Vet
When a dog goes to a vet, it’s a little bit like a human going to the dentist. Nobody enjoys being poked and prodded at and dogs are often especially fearful due to their incredibly acute senses. They can smell and hear virtually everything that goes on in the vet’s office. Remember, the routine procedures, like needle pokes and temperature checks are very alien to most dogs and cause a great deal of anxiety.
Additionally, the only time most dogs go to the vet is to have some sort of procedure done – be it a routine health check or surgery. Very few dogs ever go to the vet’s office just to say hello and, because of this, many dogs have a very negative association with the clinic itself.
How to Overcome a Fear of the Vet Clinic
The key to putting an end to vet-clinic anxiety is to make the space more routine. Inform your veterinarian that your dog is fearful of the clinic and that you’ll be doing some training to help your dog overcome that fear.
Over the next several weeks, as you are traveling through town with your dog, routinely stop by the clinic for some treats and a few snuggles. When your dog realizes that she gets to leave the office without undergoing any poking or prodding, she will begin to associate the vet’s office with positive events rather than uncomfortable procedures.
Once you’ve begun to make visits to the vet routine and less procedure-focused, you can start focusing on making your actual vet appointments less stressful for your dog. Here are some great ways to do that:
Book early morning appointments if possible: Because vet’s offices are generally less busy in the early part of the day, that is the best time to arrive. This can decrease the time you spend in the waiting room, which can help your dog feel less anxious.
Put your dog in a kennel or a dog-specific seatbelt in the car. Doing this keeps everyone in the car safer, but can also help your dog feel more secure and may decrease anxiety.
Use calming pheromone sprays (such as Adaptil) on your dogs harness or crate to help reduce their anxiety while travelling.
Leave plenty of time for the journey. Make sure you are not rushed by running late for your veterinary appointment. Your dog will sense your anxiety which will increase theirs. A relaxed drive to the clinic equals a relaxed dog in the clinic.
With these tips, you can help your dog break negative associations with vet visits. Although most dogs will never love going to the vet, it does not always have to be so stressful for your canine companion… or you.
Photo ©iStock.com/Pamela Moore