Behavior & Training
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8 Tips for Vet-Visit Bliss


6. Have everyone at the clinic give your dog lots of top-quality treats at every visit. This is “Love Your Vet 101” advice, but it’s popular for a reason: It works. If a dog learns that he gets the most delicious treats in the world while at the vet, then he is more likely to be cooperative about going there. To be successful, two important aspects of this strategy must be observed: First, use extra-special treats, not the ordinary kind; dry biscuits are just not going to have the same emotional impact. (Which would you find more motivating, a chocolate chip cookie or a cracker?) Second, unless it’s inappropriate for your dog’s health condition, be generous—multiple treats make more of an impression.

Plan your clinic entrances and exits to make them as free of stress as possible. Many dogs’ objections to the vet are really objections to the lobby or waiting area. If this applies to your dog, there are ways to get around the situation. Ask if there’s a back entrance that you and your dog can use; also, try using your car as an alternate “waiting room” and ask if someone will let you know when it’s time for the exam; at some clinics, a staff member will come out to your car or give you a call on your cell phone to let you know it’s your turn.

8. Finally, maintain a calm frame of mind yourself. Your emotions are contagious— the more cheerful and relaxed you are, the more you can help your dog. So, use whatever works for you— chocolate, relaxing music, deep-breathing exercises—but try not to stress!

Regular vet visits are important to our dogs’ health and well-being, but getting our furry “patients” there is only half the battle.Having them be happy and cooperative is the real victory—which is why I advise making this a fundamental part of every dog’s training and education.




Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

Illustration by Amy Portnoy

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