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5 Tips to Reduce Stress at the Vet

During my time of working in veterinary offices, I've seen dogs that are terrified to come see us, and I've seen dogs that literally jump for joy when they walk through our doors. So for our more nervous friends, how do we make the vet a pawsitive experience? I talked to some of my colleagues and here's a few things we wish nervous pet owners knew...

Let's start with being able to identify when our friends' may be stressed. Obvious stress indicators may include;

-Pacing -Hiding behind owner

-Whining -Pinning ears back

-Shaking -Trying to escape

-Barking -Releasing bodily functions

-Panting -Turning their back toward others

-Tail Tucking

There are also more subtle stress indicators that we may miss if we don't watch closely enough. During or after a stressful interaction, dogs may "shake it off" similar to how they shake themselves off after a bath. A stressed dog may display dilated pupils or what's referred to as "whale eyes" (when the white of the eyes are more prominent than usual) and stiff body posture. They may also release a prolonged and more intense yawn, begin to drool or start to shed excessively.

(dog displaying "whale eyes")


Positive and rewarding vet visits start before you and your dog even walk through the door. Safety at the vet is a #1 priority, and safety starts with proper gear for your pup. ALL pups entering the vet should be "dressed" with a collar, harness, head halter, etc. and leash. Their gear should fit snugly enough to prevent a pulling dog from slipping out, but not too snug, risking injury from pulling or getting tangled. (Check out Collar or Harness, What's up for Your Pup? for more info on making sure your pet is best dressed!)


Now that your dog is safe and secure, take a deep breath. Take a moment to check in with yourself and calm any nerves. One of the most important lessons that my mentor Ms. Kristie taught us was that "emotions travel down the leash". Walk in cool, calm and confident and as your dog looks to you for guidance, your calm demeanor should provide them with comfort and let them know that everything is ok!


Many furry friends seek comfort in someone they trust, so it's important to form a positive relationship with the staff at your vet. A visit to the vet doesn't always have to be for medical reasons. Talk to your vet about a good time to bring your dog by for social visits. Try to choose a time and day when the office is least busy to give the staff ample time to give your pup one-on-one attention.


Some dogs also find comfort in routine, so creating a fun and rewarding routine with your vet staff can help your dog feel safe and comfortable in their care. When entering the building, encourage staff to greet, treat and/or reward your pup. You can bring their favorite high value treats or reward with a short game with their favorite toy (Check out Low vs High Value Training Treats). Continue rewarding calm behavior during an exam and give big cheers and rewards on your way out. By creating a routine, your dog learns that a reward is to come!


When you recognize that your friend is stressed, be the voice they need. If strange people or dogs approach to interact with your dogs, do not hesitate to let them know that your friend may not be up for social interactions in that moment. It is okay to say "no" to stranger interactions. Again, your dog may be looking to you for comfort, so be that safety net for unwanted interactions when needed.

I feel like I could write entire posts going deep into each one of these individually, and about a million more, but this felt like a good start! As always, don't hesitate to reach out to your local vet or trainer to help your dog and their specific needs.


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