Make Sure Your Dog Loves the Veterinary Hospital

Okay, okay not ALL

But all dog will have to visit the vet hospital in their lives.

Most dogs should be examined every 6 months.

Think about it, we should go to the doctor’s office every year at least; and your dog ages about 7 years (or more) faster than you age!

But there are some simple things that you can do to make him tolerate it better if he is stressed.

  • Dogs get poked
  • They get their temperature taken in an inappropriate way
  • They get their nails trimmed
  • They get their ears cleaned
  • And they get generally manipulated at the veterinary office.

Heck, I work at one so I know first hand.

Let me assure you that we, as staff, would prefer to take all the time necessary to make all of our patients comfortable and happy.

But, the truth is, we are usually on a tight schedule.

We deal with animals in emergency

We deal with people who ran 20 minutes late to their 30 minute appointment

And we deal with the sadness of putting sick and elderly animals to sleep.

We simply don’t have the time to trim one toe nail at a time to make a dog comfortable.

Nor does any owner want to pay for such a short service.

Most people want all the nails trimmed and dremmeled so that they are not as sharp!

Essentially most people take their dog to the vet to be man handled and poked.

Take Your Dog to Socialize

100% of people working at the vet, love pets.

There is not a single one of us that “hates” your child with fur.

We work in a business where we get covered in blood, feces, snot, ear goop, mange, and vomit and we do it for the furry patient.

We would much prefer you bring us your bundle of furry joy so that we might pet, snuggle or even just toss treats to him to change his idea about the vet office.

Bring him in once a month or week, get his weight and let us fawn over him and build a relationship with him.  One that doesn’t involve pokes, restraint or anything up the poop shoot.

Bring Liver

my dog at the vet, waiting to be examined

my dog at the vet, waiting to be examined

Bring liver, bring steak, bring boiled chicken to your dog’s yearly or other appointment.

I see so many dog owners miss the total opportunity of being able to control and reward their dogs behaviors.

To negate the negativity of something thrust up the poop shoot, and a needle poked into a vein and rough hands palpating your internal organs, well you could imagine that a regular old piece of dog food or average treat isn’t going to do it.

And, heck the dogs that get these tidbits are usually taking them because we have them sitting around the clinic.

Wouldn’t your dog enjoy a vet visit much more if boiled chicken breast was earnable and in your pocket or in a container?

Heck, you could poke my female Dutch Shepherd in the eye with a sharp instrument if she thought you had something particularly tasty.

Now add these treats every time an indignity is performed on your dog… and don’t you figure he will be more accepting of touch he doesn’t necessarily care for.

After all, we can’t love a blood draw or a nail trim out of a dog (wish we could).

My dogs “almost” enjoy a nail trim because they know I will reward them lavishly for good behavior.  I even set the treats on the ground as I ask for them to lay still and let me trim their nails.  The moment I say “All Done” they know they have the release to eat their cookie!

The same principle can be applied to veterinary exams.


Toys are also under utilized.

At our clinic we give free tennis balls.

I wish we could do a study to see how many dogs’ blood pressure decreases when they are tossed a tennis ball at the clinic.

I bet it is a HUGE number.

That is not to say that it doesn’t rise at other moments but wouldn’t you like to take away some of the fear and pain for a moment?

I suppose that would be like taking your toddler to the Dr. not being able to explain anything.  Forcing them to leave their toys, be pinned down, and then not rewarding them or praising them at all.

I mean, think about it, pediatricians have toys, rewards and fun (all that they can) around and use them often.

I remember having a kidney infection at about 4 about remaining completely still for the urinary catheter because I wanted a Mickey Mouse ring…

Your dog has about the same mentality.

Toys, treats, rewards are all worth being a little better behaved for IF YOU BRING THEM!

My Malinois

I have a 3 year old Malinois, and he is difficult at best.

However, I can control him fairly easily.

When I take him to the vet; I take his tug toy.

He is stressed when we enter the clinic so he chomps on his tug like a pacifier.  Ironically he won’t even drop it.

He can be temped, vaccinated, and even have his teeth examined while he holds his favorite toy!

If he didn’t hold his toy, there would likely be a blood letting.

Which leads me to the next scenario. …


For some of us a muzzle brings comfort.

For the human, it takes the worry out that your dog is going to bite off a digit, because no one WANTS there dog to bite at the vet.

For the dog, it gives him something else to think about and it takes out the options.

Muzzled dogs can be so much calmer because they simply know that fighting is futile and it occupies his mind.

Think I am crazy, slip a muzzle on your dog and then do something else he would typically notice; like go to the refrigerator.

The average newly muzzled dog will not even notice that the fridge is open because he is soooo busy thinking about what is on his face.

This holds true for those of us wishing to vaccinate, trim nails or get blood.

At previous clinics, we would often just muzzle a wiggly dog because the mental confusion  of the muzzle allowed us to get work done quick.

A dog that would typically take 2 or 3 of us, would now be able to be conquered by one person fairly quickly.

Muzzles can be wonderful tools when people get over the stigma!

Do It!

Just do it!  Use these strategies to decrease your dog’s stress at the vet!

Take the trauma and drama out of your vet visits by going into them prepared with everything your dog needs to make him comfortable at the vet!

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  1. Tom Breshears says:

    sounds great will try it.


  2. Morgan says:

    I’m glad you acknowledged here that dogs often have a rough time in the vet’s office. This is great advice for making your pet’s experience as pleasant as possible. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Chris D. McKeon says:

    We lost our beloved 4 year old golden shepherd Sassy Girl after a long battle of cancer. She was diagnosed in June and pasted in Oct 23 2015. We acquired her when she was a day shy of 6 weeks old as the runt of the litter, but grew to be a beautiful shiny black 94 lbs. She was the most loving, friendly and fearless of all loud noises including wind and thunder. She was the perfect dog whom earned the right to be bragged about.She went to the animal hospital once a week for blood work or chemotherapy. She loved the 11/2 hour ride and brought her stuffed toy chicken with her . she would run threw the front door carrying her stuffed chicken. The staff and and other people thought that was the cutest thing. When the staff member took her to the treatment room she took her chicken with her and they said she would use it as a pillow while having her treatment. So yes having a favorite toy with them at the vets can really make a difference.


  4. Red says:

    We’ve had A LOT of trouble going to the vet for socialisation – 9 times out of 10 staff won’t do what we ask them to, and the socialisation ends up backfiring.

    We have an adult dog who is fearful, and we go in first every time and ask staff to please completely ignore him, we’ll only be there a minute to feed him treats, and then we’ll leave…over half a dozen times we have had vet staff come over yelling his name, leaning over him and staring him in the eyes, stroking his head etc etc. There’s not much I can say to stop them, as I automatically start giving him lots of treats and telling him what a good boy he is, whilst leading him to the door.

    When we tried taking our puppy to the vet last year, the staff also acted very odd, and like it was almost wrong that we were taking our puppy to the vets just for positive socialisation…we were given a lot of dirty looks, there was a lot of confusion, and twice the person behind the counter said they had to go ‘check’ that it was okay if we brought our puppy into the waiting room without an appt.

    Then there was the time one of the nurses started yelling “AH AH!” at our 11 week old puppy because she had asked him to ‘sit’ and he was too excited saying hello to do so – never mind that he responded far better to the hand signal, and when I asked him to sit he did so immediately.

    We have had two fantastic vets in our 5+ years of dog ownership (one we are still lucky to be treated by) and they’ve been amazing – very willing to listen when we ask them to handle our dogs gently, showing our dogs implements (eg. stethoscope) before using them, and feeding treats throughout the examination. The last vet we had before moving was able to treat our dog with zero anxiety on his part (and he’s the fearful rescue) when he had cut an artery on a walk 🙂


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