If you think visits to the doctor's office are stressful, imagine how your dog must feel at the vet. It's easy to understand why being put on a slippery table in a room filled with strange smells and sounds while being poked and looked at by a stranger doesn't feel good. On top of that, remember that your dog cannot understand why this is happening even if you try your best to explain. However, regular check-ups are imperative for keeping your dog healthy and happy. If you want to avoid traumatizing your dog and putting him through unnecessary anxiety, you might want to take a look at these 5 tips to make vet visits less stressful for your dog.
1. Choose a reliable veterinarian
If you want to ensure stress-free vet visits for your dog, finding the right veterinarian should be your top priority. Most people choose one based on how close they are to their home, the affordability, or simply because that's the vet they ran into first. However, your convenience shouldn't be at the top of the list. Choosing a reliable doctor for your pup is a challenging task that requires plenty of research and dedication. You might want to start by asking your fellow pet-owners for recommendations, reading reviews online, or contacting the clinic for more information. Ultimately, you want to find someone who knows how to handle anxious dogs (not all of them do!). A vet that is patient enough and willing to take things slow.
Once you find a vet that seems trustworthy, schedule a visit to get to know them. Introducing your dog to the vet in a more relaxed environment will potentially make future visits less stressful.
Finding a vet who wants to listen to your concerns and openly communicate about your dog's health and wellbeing is essential. Only by going through the hassle of building a triangle of trust between your vet, your dog, and yourself will your pup be able to have a positive experience.
2. Teach your dog basic commands
Teaching basic commands will be of immense help if you want to make vet visits less stressful for your dog. Dogs' fear and anxiety are partially triggered by not feeling in control, so training your dog to do specific steps at the vet's office on his own will help gain some of it back.
You can start by teaching your dog to sit. Once you master that, move on to jumping. If your dog jumps on the exam table on your command, he will feel more confident and relaxed during the check-up. Work your way up to more demanding tricks and arm yourself with a lot of patience and, more importantly, treats. Puppies learn quickly, but adult dogs are capable of adopting these skills as well.
Remember that the hassle will be worth it as you will have more control over your furry friend, and he will feel more confident in return.
3. Get your dog accustomed to touching
A part of why dogs feel stressed during vet visits is the fact that they are not familiar with what is going on around them. An easy way to combat this feeling of cluelessness is to practice similar movements and sensations at home. Make sure to introduce these exercises in an environment where your dog is comfortable and relaxed.
A typical vet visit usually consists of the vet checking your furry friend's ears, eyes, teeth, and stomach. Therefore, start by gently touching your dog in these areas, and don't forget to reward desirable behavior. You can even do so while playing or chilling on the couch. It would be a good idea to ask your friends and family members to join in so that your dog doesn't get used to your touches only. Additionally, don't be afraid to pinch your doggo or make him a bit uncomfortable. Pain is a part of the process, and you want your dog to learn how to handle it calmly.
Not only will this teach your dog that vet visits aren't scary, but you will be able to notice potentially dangerous changes in your dog's health sooner. Besides, your pup will undoubtedly enjoy spending some quality playtime with you.
4. Visit the vet regularly
Helping your dog see vet visits as bearable is all about consistency. If you take your dog to the vet once every couple of years, your efforts will likely be futile as he won't get used to the process. Therefore, make sure to visit the pet clinic of your choice often. Even if your dog is completely healthy, you can stop by for a general check-up, a weigh-in, or simply to say hi. This will help your dog learn that a vet is not someone who only inflicts pain and discomfort, and he might even start to like visiting.
Regularly visiting the vet is especially important if you want to make relocation less frightening for your pet. Moving with pets is a stressful time for both you and your dog. Your dog might experience some changes in his health and mood, from everything being new to searching for a new vet and getting back into a routine. So, make sure not to skip those check-ups!
5. Stay calm
Finally, once you've done everything in your power to help your dog feel calm at the vet's office, it's time to work on yourself. The biggest reason dogs perceive vet visits as scary and dramatic is because they mirror their owner's feelings. Remember, your dog looks up to you as much as a child looks up to their parents. You are your fur baby's protector and best friend, so it's easy to understand why your feelings and moods play an essential role in their behavior.
So, before you become frustrated because you can’t seem to make vet visits less stressful for your dog, ask yourself whether you are the problem. Try to relax before visiting the vet by listening to music, going for a walk, or playing with your dog. For owners whose dogs are elderly or sick, check-ups and exams can be tough to handle. However, keep in mind that your vet is a trained professional who you can fully trust.