Preparing Your Puppy For Vet Visits

January 9, 2023

Cute puppy face

Hitting those milestones at the vet can be an exciting time for new owners, but exams and grooming can be pretty stressful for a little puppy and owners too. New environments, barking, and other loud noises, new people and dogs, being poked and prodded, and being held still are all part of the typical exam process. A stressed puppy may be harder to groom or examine, which can lead to even more stress, longer time spent in the visit, improper diagnosis, and other safety concerns for both your puppy and the staff. 

Stress at the groomers and vet may not just dissipate as your puppy matures and being touched and handled by others is a key part of their health. It is extremely important to get them comfortable in these situations before it turns into a problem. Luckily, there are exercises you can do at home with your puppy to get them more comfortable being handled by strangers. All puppies and young dogs can benefit from these preventative exercises and they are a nice way to spend some time with your pup! 

Puppy body handling

Preparation and preventative exercises

These preventative exercises are done by pairing something that your puppy likes (treats!) with situations that can cause some discomfort. Anything you can do at home with your puppy that can mimic visits to the vet or groomer will prepare them for when they are actually there. Being home with their humans getting yummy food while these exercises are being done will change their view of these situations. Instead of connecting being held or their paws touched with scary loud noises or shots, it’s connected with good things so that when they are at the vet or groomers, they have a past connection to pull from.

Body handling exercises 

These exercises are used to change your puppy’s perception of being touched and handled by pairing it with something they like – yummy treats!

  • Have a bag of small treats ready (extra small pieces for tiny pups!), about 20-30
  • Sit on the ground and gently pick up your puppy and lay them down on their back with their body supported by your legs. If this is too much to start, have your puppy face you either sitting or laying down
  • Say “good” as soon as you make contact and touch your puppy’s paw, chest, or shoulder (depending on where they are, it should be something close to you and easily reached). Then take your hand away and give them a treat no matter what their reaction was (pulling away, wriggling)
  • Continue three repetitions in the same spot, saying “good” and feeding each time you touch the spot. 
  • If they start moving, try to chew on your hand, or try to get up, do not stop or scold, instead, increase the speed that you are feeding and decrease the intensity of the touch 
  • Make sure you do three reps where your puppy stays calm before you move to another spot or increase the difficulty. 
  • Start all new locations by reaching out and touching and saying “good” right away, then, as they improve, increase the difficulty by increasing duration (the seconds of touch) or intensity (squeezing their paw very slightly, or petting a bit harder). 

For vet visits, you can work up to touching their teeth and gums with a finger, looking in their ears and eyes, gently palpating their tummies, and firmly petting their backs, sides, legs, and chests 

For grooming visits, you can work up to touching their teeth and gums with a finger, cupping their faces, touching their paws and individual toes, and firmly petting their backs, sides, legs, and chest.

Practicing these body-handling exercises 3 times a week will help prepare your puppy when they go to the groomer or to the vet. These experiences will most likely still be scary for them, but they will be more prepared and able to handle the new stressors, which will help you relax too!


Is also a key component in your puppy’s life. Providing positive exposure to as many new situations, people, noises, and places will increase your puppy’s confidence around them and all subsequent ones. Make sure to bring some treats along with you to new experiences with your puppy to pair these new things with the thing they already like (food!). Even the most delicious treats might be ignored in overstimulating places, so go slow and make sure your puppy is readily taking treats from you before you increase the distractions. Check out our post, “Socialization Goals for Puppys” for more information and ideas!

It can be overwhelming being a puppy owner as well as being a small puppy in a big, loud world. Practicing body handling exercises and adding more socialization to your puppy’s life will lead to a more confident and friendly puppy. If you would like some help with these exercises, adding more socialization, and puppy obedience, check out our puppy training page to design your program!