Be Courteous During Vet Visits

Be Courteous During Vet Visits

Considering they service animals, vet offices are typically not set up with animals (particularly dogs) in mind.  Their waiting rooms are set up to provide the maximum number of seats for people to sit and wait.  Unfortunately this set up is less than ideal for the animals (both dogs and cats, but particularly dogs) and can be an absolute nightmare for some dogs and their handlers.

In most places, maximizing the space for patrons and seating for patrons is a good idea but that is not the case for vet offices.  I really wish vets or their architects/designers would take some time when designing their waiting areas to think less about maximizing the spots for people to sit and instead maximizing the comfort and space/privacy of the dogs. Ignoring for a moment the behavior of other people or dogs in the waiting area, the design and layout of waiting areas often sets people and dogs up for failure (so to speak).

Here's the waiting area and entrance of my vet. Finding a safe spot for Shayne can be a challenge.

Here’s the waiting area and entrance of my vet. Finding a safe spot for Shayne can be a challenge.

My former vet’s office was a challenging space, particularly when I had more than 1 animal with me. There was no spot that was ideal for waiting–I could sit on the end seat on the outside wall but then I’m right next to the door and careless clients walking in with their dog way out in front would be problematic.  I could sit on the end seat on the interior wall but then have exiting patients to my back that could surprise us and we would be closest to people who are at the desk paying while not minding their dog.  We could take the end seats on either wall closest to the side wall, but then we are trapped and have no escape and have to run the gauntlet on the way to the exam room.  So my solution was generally to pick a morning appointment and get there a smidge early so we can go right into the exam room.


This space was extra challenging to navigate when other owners were not terribly courteous.  Most of the time they simply did not know any better and would allow their dogs to get all up in other dogs’ business.  I will never understand other dog owner’s allowing their dog to get close to other dogs in vet offices–the dog could be potentially contagious with some disease or parasite, if there is any place you want your dog to not greet other dogs, it is at a vet’s office.


Here’s the deal, dogs in vet offices may be injured, sick, or highly stressed out and as I’ve written about frequently, dogs who are injured, sick, or highly stressed are more likely to bite or be snarky.  It’s important to keep your distance and keep your dog under control.  It’s also really unfair to let your dog walk up an animal in a carrier–although both are safe, it’s still incredibly intimidating and potentially stressful for the caged animal.

Tena’s Tips for Courteous Vet Visits

1. No extendible leashes (aka flexi-leashes).  No leashes over 6ft.
2. Do not allow your dog to go up to other patients (of any species).
3. Keep your dog under control and on a short-ish leash.
4. Pay attention to your dog–even when checking out or paying.
5. Look before coming around corners or exiting doors.
6. Choose a seat in the waiting area away from other dogs in the area, even if it’s not the most convenient.
7. Don’t let your dog stare at other dogs or critters in cages.
8. If you see a handler with multiple critters, yield of the right of way to them as a courtesy or move your dog further out of their path if possible (*unless the other handler gestures you to go first)


Tena’s Tips for A Successful Vet Trip

1. Ask your vet for an opening or closing appointment if you have a special needs dog.
2. Be on time for your appointment (though not too early so as not to bump into earlier appointments)
3. Be honest with your vet, if your dog has special needs they may help you accomodate those needs by using a back door or having a room ready for you.
4. Bring a mat that your dog has learned to relax on.
5. Bring lots of yummy treats as a tool to help reinforce simple behaviors, distract your pup if needed, and be a litmus test for a dog’s stress level.
6. Play simple games like doggie zen or hand targets to keep your dog busy and focused on you and not the world around him/her.
7. Be prepared to get up and move if a less aware handler enters the waiting area.
8. Be confident enough to advocate for your dog to communicate to less aware dog handlers that your dog doesn’t feel well and needs space.
9. If you pre-arrange with your vet, you may be able to call them when you are in the parking lot to check in and they may even be able to call you when your room is opened up so you can stay out of the waiting area with your special needs dog without leaving them in the car alone (when it is safe, you may be able to check-in in person and then wait in your car for a call that they are ready).
10. Relax.  The more stressed the handler is, the more stressed the dogs will be.  Do your best to relax and stay calm to help your pup cope with the situation as well.



  1. Our vet is set up the same way… Your tips are awesome! We have found that communication is the key, we usually pick an appt at the ‘slow times’ and inform them when we check in that she needs space so we might wait walk around if another dog comes in, but I had never thought about calling from the parking lot to check in, brilliant!

    • Yup, communication is really an important piece both with your vet and other patrons if they aren’t paying attention. Not all vets will let you call-in to check in but if you let them know ahead of time that your dog has those special needs, most will probably be pretty accommodating.

  2. Our vet at least has a separate area for cats and dogs- even down to separate doors to enter by. I think it makes for a much better situation, since there are two waiting rooms, even if both are fully open to each other. But they are divided by the front counter area. Between that and going to a pretty small practice, I normally manage to be the only one on the dog side of the building, or just barely see the dog before me as they are checking out.

    • Crystal that sounds like a really nice set up! That would be at least one step more comfortable for the animals going to the vet not having the other species right there to cause extra stress. I have thought about creating “L shaped” light weight portable barriers I could bring with me if needed to give my pup some privacy and a solid barrier to keep other dogs out of my dog’s space.

  3. You can also ak for an appointment in between two cat consults.

    • That is a really great suggestion!

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