Fixing a Fear of the Vet

Have you ever taken your dog to the Vet’s Office just to have a normally calm and obedient dog become fearful and crazed?  I have seen all kinds of dogs cowering in the corner of the waiting area or normally docile dogs become defensive, barking loons as they wait for their appointment.  Fortunately, this problem is fixable with a little training and a lot of patience.

For this training, you will need the following equipment:

  • A bait bag in which to place the dog’s food/treats.
  • A clicker
  • High value food reward
  • Leash
  • Patience


* It is a good idea to have done the work of clicker training or at least conditioning the clicker prior to beginning this training.*

It is never too early to begin training a puppy for the Vet’s office.  It is highly recommended that owners handle their puppy’s paws, ears and mouths from a very early age.  You want to condition your puppy to be accustomed to this treatment and not feel threatened or uncomfortable when their paws, ears and mouths are manipulated and inspected.

If you are starting this process with a more mature dog, use clicker training to condition your dog to accepting their paws, ears and mouths being touched.  For example, when the dog allows you to hold a paw, “click” and reward her.  When your dog allows you to hold and gently tug on an ear without backing away or nipping, “click” and reward.  The same process will work for the mouth.  When the dog will allow you to hold her face and pull back a lip to reveal the teeth, “click” and reward the dog.  You will want to progress to more invasive manipulation of the paws, ears and mouth to prepare the dog for a visit to the Vet.

Focus on one body part at a time before proceeding to the next rather than trying to familiarize the dog to each of the three areas all at once.  Be sure to reward your dog for allowing you to do each of these things, it is not natural to a mature dog to have this done.  Dogs who have been through this conditioning are likely to allow the Vet’s staff to do the same thing without too much resistance.  This, however, this is only part of the acclimatization training.

Some dogs seem naturally nervous in and around the Vet’s office.  I have a young dog who has never had a negative experience with a Vet but, still reacts to being taken to the Vet.  If your dog suffers from this insecurity or nervousness, correct this behavior by following these simple steps:

1)      Take your dog to the Vet’s office on a day when you do not have an appointment.  (It is suggested that you call ahead and check with the office staff to be sure this is not a problem).

2)      Find an area of the waiting room where you can begin to play the attention game.  (The dog is rewarded for giving you attention.  She looks at you, you “click” and the dog is rewarded.)   Repeat this until it is fairly easy for your dog to focus on you despite the other activity in the waiting area.

3)      Have the dog sit or down in the waiting area.  Firmly and deliberately stroke your dogs back while you tell your dog to “Relax”.  Repeat the petting in a slow and calming manner until you see your dog relax into their sit or down, “click” and reward your dog.  In some cases, this may mean clicking the instant your dog stops fighting you to stay in the sit or down.  Depending on how uncomfortable your dog is to start with, be sure to reward your dog for any improvement, no matter how small.

4)      Don’t allow these familiarization sessions to extend beyond 5-10 minutes.  Start with short sessions and progress as your dog becomes more and more comfortable.  Continue to conduct these practice sessions until your dog no longer reacts to being in the waiting room.

5)      Once your dog no longer dreads the waiting room, practice getting from the car to the waiting room.  If you are happy with the dog’s behavior walking from the car to the waiting room, “click” and reward (I suggest flooding the dog).  You want to reinforce the positive nature of the waiting area.  Make your dog feel like good things happen there.

6)      If your dog’s behavior is not what you are looking for, leave the waiting area, return to your car and repeat the exercise.  Be sure to praise your dog for good behavior and correct the behavior you do not want.  Repeat this exercise until you can successfully get from the car into the waiting room with the behavior you desire from your dog.

On the day you have your Vet appointment, don’t arrive too early.  Try not to exceed the amount of time you will spend in the waiting area beyond the length of your training sessions.  If you believe there will be a longer delay, ask the office staff if you can wait in the car.  Go inside about 5 minutes before the appointment.  Take your clicker and treats with you and don’t be afraid to use them.  It helps to have a hungry dog who is particularly interested in the treats you have.

Going to the Vet’s office should not be a torturous experience for either you or your dog.  Taking the time to condition the dog to the experiences and treatment she will encounter at the Vet’s office will make these visits easier for you both in the long run.

Are you looking for a better behaved, more obedient dog? Longoriahaus Dog Training provides customized Dog Training in Houston for your pet or your competition prospect.  Contact us today to learn more about our exciting program.

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