A recent trip to the vet has made me realize I should dedicate a series to supporting our dogs and ways to make vet visits better for them.

Preparing your dog to be relaxed and confident during vet visits can take time. Like other training, helping your dog learn to get comfortable having blood drawn or having an exam is a process. Preparing them requires planning and practice, so they will be ready when the time actually comes.

However, you can do a few simple things to improve their experience at the vet, even if your dog is still in training for handling and procedures. You can immediately implement these to improve your dog’s well-being and comfort.

Get Sorted Before You Bring Your Dog Into the Clinic

sleepypod car safety harness

Check With the Front Desk Before Bringing Your Dog In

By checking in on your own first, you can find out the expected wait before the vet will see you. It will also allow you to answer any questions or fill in forms while your dog is comfortable in the car, reducing the time they have to spend in the clinic.

Location Location Location

Before you go and get your dog, pick the spot where you’ll sit together. Doing this first will allow you to access the clinic without worrying about your dog. Is it crowded? Are there dogs or other animals that your dog will find a challenge? Can you locate a spot where your dog will have some space and be more likely to feel safe and relaxed? If possible, choose a quiet location away from the door or high-traffic areas.

Have Familiar Things for Your Dog

Providing items for your dog that they enjoy and are familiar will help create an oasis for them. A comfort station will allow them to settle and engage in calming activities. This will help to keep them more relaxed than if they are continually asked to sit or lie down or left to scan the environment.

What do I bring for a comfort station?

  • a well-used mat with your dog’s scent on it (another great reason to start mat training if you haven’t already!)
  • a stuffy or two
  • a licky pad, snuffle mat or chew to provide a calming activity

Set Up Your Dog’s Comfort Station Before Bringing Them Into the Clinic

Getting organized before bringing your dog in will provide your dog with an immediate positive focus point. As soon as they arrive, they will recognize their stuff and be able to settle there. It will also allow you to focus 100% on your dog rather than fiddling with getting set up.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your comfort station:

  • for everyone’s safety, position your dog to prevent resource guarding or anxiety for them or other animals present
  • choose quiet, non-disruptive toys – no one wants to listen to constant squeaking
  • it is essential to consider the other clients in the clinic. If your dog becomes animated with the toy, redirect them to avoid agitating other dogs.
  • and a final reminder to be particularly mindful of proximity to other dogs with higher-value items – both with dogs waiting nearby and those moving through the area.

Wait With Your Dog In the Car

For some dogs and in certain situations, staying with them in the car may be best until they are ready to be seen. After checking in, you can wait comfortably in the car together. The clinic can notify you when they are ready. Going straight into the appointment is a good choice if:

  • your dog is particularly sensitive or anxious in a clinic setting
  • the waiting room is crowded
  • another client is already struggling – their anxiety will affect your dog
  • a type of dog your dog has issues with is present

Have a Bunch of Yummy Treats

Another positive you can provide your dog is delicious treats.* You can provide these casually in the waiting room or when other dogs arrive or move about. Treats will also help your dog in the exam room. Whether used to build positive associations or to distract your dog during difficult situations, they are a useful tool.
*You cannot do this if your dog is on a food restriction protocol for the visit.

Going to the vet can be stressful for both humans and dogs. But, implementing these simple strategies can take some of the stress out of future visits. I’d love to hear what you’ll take for your dog’s comfort station! And stay tuned for more helpful tips in our vet series.

Do you need help getting your dog comfortable with handling or husbandry tasks? I can help. Contact me here to chat.

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