Happy Vet Visits For Dogs Afraid To Enter The Clinic

fearful dogs Jan 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. 

I hope these tips help! We'd love to hear how your happy vet visits are going. You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.

Looking for more guidance and support? Check out Confidence Builders Club, our training membership and community for fearful pups and their people.