Happy Vet Visits For Dogs Afraid To Enter The ClinicJan 23, 2023
We frequently get asked how to start "happy vet visits" with a dog who is afraid to enter the clinic. "Happy vet visits" don't involve any procedures or invasive handling. Instead, in a nutshell, you bring your dog to the clinic, give them lots of treats, and leave. The goal is to build positive associations with the clinic and to train helpful behaviors, without the pressure and expectation of getting actual veterinary care done.
But what if your dog balks at even entering the clinic? Here are some easier training steps to get started with:
Happy Vet Visit #1: Watch The Clinic From The Car
Watching the activity around the clinic from the safety of your parked car can be a great first step toward increasing your dog's comfort at the vet. Let your pup watch people and pets coming and going, and give them lots of their favorite treats.
The easiest version of this training setup for many dogs involves having the car doors and windows closed, and parking your car a good distance from the clinic.
Happy Vet Visit #2: Explore The Parking Lot
Once your dog is comfortable watching the clinic from the car, a good next step might be leashing them up and letting them sniff and explore the parking lot. Have you treats ready, and reward any desirable behaviors you see. You can reinforce behaviors that are as small as looking over toward the clinic, or looking at you.
Happy Vet Visit #3: The Clinic Grounds
The grassy areas around the clinic (if there are any) are often full of fascination scents for your dog to explore. As long as there isn't too much traffic near the clinic for your pup to tolerate, let them sniff, and again reinforce any behaviors you like with high value treats.
In the video below, Pancake was exploring the clinic grounds during the winter, so there wasn't any grass to sniff. But he still had fun running around outside the clinic and eating treats.
Looking for more guidance and support? Check out Confidence Builders Club, our training membership and community for fearful pups and their people.