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Anxious dog hiding behind couch at vet's office

Dog anxiety manifested in subtle ways

Q: When my dog, Buddy, is in the vet’s office, he yawns, even though I’m sure he’s not tired. Also, he licks his lips as though he’s hungry, but he won’t accept food treats from anyone, including me. What’s going on?

A: It sounds like he’s anxious or frightened.

Sometimes dogs make their feelings obvious by cowering, moving away or even growling when approached. Other times, they express anxiety more subtly, by yawning, licking their lips or refusing treats. They may pant, pace or walk very slowly, sometimes crouching.

Anxious dogs may hold their ears down and to the side. Others are unusually vigilant, darting looks in every direction.

You can help Buddy feel more confident at the vet’s office by taking him there for social visits, where the staff will pet him and give him treats—but not administer injections, draw blood or trim his nails.

In addition, you should enroll Buddy in group dog obedience training classes where he will interact with a variety of people and dogs while you praise him and reward him with treats. Ask people to pet him and, when he’s ready, to touch his ears and feet, so he gets accustomed to being handled by people he doesn’t know.

In time, his increased confidence will help him enjoy his veterinary visits.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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