Keep Dog Calm at the Vet: 10 Incredible Ways to accomplish that!

Published by , 24th March 2017 in Dog Behavior

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How to keep a dog calm at the vet

Anyone who has taken their dog to the veterinarian can tell you it is often a stressful situation for both parties. Seldom will a dog calmly tolerate a trip to the vet, let alone make it easy to their mom/dad.

There are many things your furry friend may see or hear during their visit that can scare them and cause them to act out. Often the best case scenario is just a bit of cowering or hiding behind your legs, but a dog who is poorly trained may lash out or try to escape if they feel threatened enough.

Regardless of your dog’s temperament, it is a good idea to know the signs your dog may be feeling anxious at the vet, and what to do to stymie a negative reaction to their environment.

On this article, I will present to you the 10 best ways to keep your dog calm at the vet. Let’s start.

How to get a dog to calm down

10. Forge a solid relationship with your dog and take him to the vet yourself

This one may seem obvious, but an obvious trigger for a dog being nervous or anxious is being in a strange place with someone he doesn’t trust.  If you have a new puppy or recently rescued dog, you may have to build up your relationship to the point where they trust you before they will behave well in strange new places.

Simple everyday things can help you build this relationship, such as crate training, reduce excessive barking or teaching your dog simple commands. Check out our free eBook on Dog Training to get some great ideas on getting your puppy to love and trust you. Once your relationship is developed enough your dog is going to feel braver simply by being by your side.

9. Make sure your dog knows the basic commands

Briefly touched on in number 10, try and teach your dog the basic commands you need to get him to behave when he doesn’t simply know when to do so. We’re not saying the more complicated commands such as to shake or roll over, but simple commands you can give when waiting for the vet can come in very handy when he or she starts acting up.

We suggest dog training your dog at least how to respond to ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’ and ‘quiet’. Remember not to yell or overreact if your dog likes to bark in the vet’s office. This often only encourages the barking rather than dissuade it. (read our article “9 simple reasons negative reinforcement is bad for your dog“).

8. Get your dog used to being handled

Obviously, everyone already does this right? Everyone who has adopted a dog has played and cuddled with their dog. However, a large part of a dog’s anxiety at the vet is caused by a new person handling him in a different way than he is used to. To get your buddy vet-ready we can get rid of half of this problem by handling our dogs in the same manner that a vet would.

This is really cool and it works: Give them a fake ear exam, slow and methodical belly rubs, open his mouth for a look at his teeth and throat. These will all get him/her used to the actions and when a stranger does it (at least while you are there with him) he will not be as scared since he knows what is happening is relatively normal.

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7. Introduce your dog to the veterinarian before the real appointment

Helping your dog to get used to a trip to the vet without all the anxiety triggers will go a long way to getting them to behave during subsequent visits.  If your first trip there is when something is wrong there is a lot going against your puppy to get them stressed out. He/she won’t be feeling well to start, they will pick up stressed signals from you because you are aware there is a problem, and on top of that you are taking them to a strange place with strange people!

When not feeling well your dog is going to be extra wary of strangers and be on the defensive, which doesn’t make for a great first meeting. Even the most well-trained dog is going to exhibit some symptoms of stress under these conditions. Try bringing your dog for walks by the vet’s office if it’s close enough. Bring them in when you have a chance. If the vet and nurses have time for a quick meeting without an exam your dog will feel a lot safer around them.

6. Arrive a little bit before your appointment

Any amount of rushing is going to put your dog on edge. Arriving at the vet and immediately being rushed into an exam room is not going to make them very happy at all. Instead, try to get there 15 minutes early if you can. Start by letting them explore a little bit around the outside of the building. Let them pee now before they do get stressed. Go inside and let them poke around and get familiar with the environment. Any good vet’s office is going to make the interior pet-friendly and non-threatening, but they still have to be familiar to make sure they don’t get on edge.

5. Keep close by when possible

As long as the vet isn’t separating you, you should stay by their side for the entire visit. Being close is going to give your dog more courage with everything going on around him. Bring a toy for him to chew on or play tug of war with you so he isn’t bored.

4. Be aware of other pets and their owners

Many dogs don’t react appropriately to other animals. Most properly trained dogs will know how to react to people and other dogs just from being out on a walk with you. However, don’t assume that other owners spend as much time as you on dog training. Therefore, assume their dogs are not well trained as yours.

Any negative contact with another animal is going to add to the stress he’s feeling. Further, many dogs don’t know how to react around other animals they don’t encounter on a daily basis. Of course, you should expect cats, but you may also encounter gerbils and Guinea pigs and birds. Don’t let your dog’s natural curiosity get him in trouble and create a problem that will cause him a negative reaction.

3. Distract him during the exam

Typically, when you do finally get in the exam room is when your dog’s anxiety and misbehavior is going to pique. This may seem like common sense, but it is some of the best advice for keeping your dog’s behavior in check.

Tip to distract him: Use his name, give him a chew toy or treat that takes his attention for a while and rub his face and ears as long as that isn’t the part being examined at the moment.

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2. Try remaining calm yourself

Man’ best friend has earned their reputation partly for being able to respond and commiserate with our emotions. If you are happy and excited she will reflect that. If you are sad she’ll try to comfort you and cheer you up. Unfortunately, this also means if you are stressed and worried she is going to pick up on the subtle cues and reflect that feeling.

It may be difficult to fake with having to take your puppy to the vet, but it’s important to make her feel confident by showing that everything is okay and normal. If you can master this little bit of acting, it is one of the best things you can do to keep your dog happy and calm.

1. Teach him to look at you on command

Important Dog Training: People often replace ‘look’ or ‘watch me’ with their dog’s name, but this is one of the most powerful commands you can teach your dog. By saying this command you can immediately command their attention and cause them to become calmed and attentive.

I have seen dogs whimpering with their tail between their legs snap to attention when this command was given, completely ignoring the outside stimulus that was causing their stressed behavior a moment ago.

Conclusion

This list of very simple steps has helped many people have a quick and easy trip to the veterinarian. If you follow these ten rules I’m confident you will see some improvement in your dog’s behavior and help keep him healthy!

Dog training doesn’t have to be stressful for you or for your furry friend. You need to follow steps and remember to be consistent with the training method you choose. I don’t recommend starting one topic (such as preventing a dog from jumping up on guests) and then changing to another subject (like reduce excessive barking) and after a couple of days changing to clicker training, etc. Just choose the problem that is bothering you the most and spend one week solving that. After solving it, move to the next one.

If you liked this article and want to read more about dog training, dog behavior, dog separation anxiety and dog health download our free eBook below. We have +90 pages of information that we summarized in three different eBooks (“How to Stop the 10 Most Common Dog Obedience Problems”, “How to be the Alpha dog and Stop your Dog’s Behavior Problems” and “The top 20 Dog Health Problems and How to Prevent them”.

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Have fun training your dog and please let us know if you need any help!