Help, How Do I Stop My Dog From Trying to Bite the Vet?

Take Proactive Action if Your dog bites the vet.

You need to take action if your dog bites the vet. Aggressive behaviors in dogs can worsen over time if they are not treated.

Take a deep breath, no matter how upsetting the situation is. Positively, your dog did not bite the vet, and he informed you of a problem.

Vets are used to dealing with dogs that react badly during visits.

In the veterinary hospital where I worked, many charts had red clips. Vets and staff used this clip to identify dogs that were uneasy being handled or who might bite.

Help, How Do I Stop My Dog From Trying to Bite the Vet?

It is essential to tackle the issue.

It is essential to address the issue of dogs that bite vets because they will continue to need routine vet visits.

Research shows that a dog’s dislike for going to the vet can negatively impact the frequency of non-urgent appointments. Twenty-two percent said they would visit their vet more often if it didn’t cause their dog so much anxiety.

Consider that aggressive dogs at the veterinarian’s office can harm veterinary staff and owners.

It is better to tackle a slight dislike for the vet early on because the more the dog practices aggressive behavior, the more he will become accustomed to it.

Your dog will react more aggressively and earlier as he becomes more and more frightened and feels the need to defend himself.

Why did my dog bite the vet? Why did my dog bite the vet?

You might wonder what made your dog bite the vet. There are many possible causes, but most often, there are several. The list below includes several possible reasons.

1. Lack of Socialization

Puppies go through a crucial socialization phase between the ages of three and fourteen weeks. During this period, puppies are more receptive to learning about the environment, other animals, humans, and other species.

It is essential to provide positive experiences for puppies during this period. This will help prevent fearful reactions and behavioral problems.

Your vet’s office, and the events that occur there, are among the most critical places and experiences for puppies to experience during this period.

Early exposure to your puppy’s vet, the veterinary clinic, and the various veterinary procedures can help him feel more confident and comfortable as an adult.

Recommended for You

Organizing fun visits to the veterinarian from a young age can reduce the fear and anxiety associated with vet visits.

If you don’t do this with your dog, he dislikes going to the vet.

2. The Handling of People

Dogs benefit from being handled from an early age.

You can help your dog by getting him used to being touched on his paws and ears. Here are some exercises that I recommend you start with as soon as your puppy is born: exercises to get used to handling.

You can have your helper pretend to be a vet and practice touching and listening to your dog’s heartbeat.

Dogs may be uncomfortable when touched if they have not been handled since a young age or if there are no regular maintenance sessions.

3. Dislike Being Restrained

Some dogs struggle to be restrained, just as they struggle to be handled. Retraining is how vets and staff keep puppies and dogs calm so they can perform specific procedures (shots or blood draws) and check their vitals.

When a dog or puppy is not used to being restrained, it can react badly. They may squirm or bite the person who is doing the restraining or anyone else nearby.

Getting your puppy used to being handled and to the vet is essential.

4. Vets are not liked by many

Some dogs are afraid of people for whatever reason.

When I worked for a vet hospital, a note was attached to the chart with a paper clip that told us how to help the dog if it disliked a particular vet.

The notes could have stated things like “This pet does better with female vets,” or “This puppy doesn’t care for vets with glasses,” or more specific specialties like “This pup doesn’t want vets to knock on the front door before entering,” or “This cat doesn’t enjoy vets that loom over him.”

My Rottweiler, Kaiser, was usually OK with going to the vet. However, one day when we went to a vet who served a rural community, he became apprehensive. The vet peeked out the door and told us he had just finished helping a cow deliver a baby. He would be with us soon.

When he entered the space, he approached Kaiser and let him smell his hand. Kaiser growled as he sniffed the hand. He was uncharacteristic, but I couldn’t ignore the bloodstains on the vet’s smock. I was sure that he was reacting because of the smell of blood!

5. The Pain of A Matter Of Pain

When dogs bite their vet, they may be in pain. If your dog is usually calm at the veterinarian but has suddenly snapped or growled at him, it’s possible that he felt pain.

Pain can be caused by an ear infection, toothache, stiff joints, pinched neck nerve, or other injuries.

6. Feeling your Anxiety

How dogs move, talk, and interact with us can help them understand our emotions.

In an uncertain situation, dogs look to their caregiver for better assessment and will adapt their behavior based on the emotional expressions of their owner.

Your dog can sense your tension or worry about the vet visit. This may cause him to become tense as well.

7. Negative reinforcement: The power of negative reinforcement

It’s not a reason to try to bite your vet. This is more of a thing to be aware of to understand what’s on your dog’s brain.

When your dog is uncomfortable and grows or bites, the person near him will move away from him or stop restraining him.

Your dog will learn, “I growl or snap when the person walks away or lets me go; I’ll growl or snap in the future, in similar situations, because it works.”

Negative reinforcement is powerful. This is called negative reinforcement when we act in a way that causes something negative to disappear or stop.

Here are some examples of negative reinforcement

Do you need some examples of negative punishment? Here are five real-life examples of human situations.

The child can stop his mother’s nagging by doing homework. Moving away from the sun will make the burning sensation disappear. Clapping your hands stops a cat from trying to jump onto your lap.

These behaviors can make unpleasant things or undesirable things disappear. Since they work, it is natural to use them more often in the future—the power of reinforcement.

Did you know?

A survey of dog owners revealed that 41% displayed mild or moderate fear when a veterinarian examined them, and 14% showed severe or extreme anxiety.

Can a dog’s attempt to bite the vet signify dominance?

It’s not a sign of “dominance” if your dog bites the vet. Instead, it is a sign they are afraid, in pain, or uncomfortable.

Dogs displaying dominance over humans is a concept that originated from observing captive wolf pack behavior. Schenkel’s studies on captive wolves revealed that the alpha wolf ruled the pack.

David Mech’s newer research on wolves allowed to roam free on Ellesmere Island has revealed a different story.

Instead of being led by a dictatorial alpha wolf, a pair of alphas were in charge and acted more like a family.

It has led to a shift in the way we train our dogs. We are now less focused on “pack rules” and use more gentle training methods.

Should a dog that bites the vet be punished?

You will remove his warning system by punishing your dog for growling at the vet or snapping. This can only have a negative effect.

You would ignore a check engine light on your dog or a fire alarm that goes off in a building. By removing the warning signal of your dog, you may end up with a dog that bites without any warning.

Never suppress your dog’s warning system, such as growling or snapping. It would be best to understand that barking or growling is a dog’s natural behavior and the only way to communicate their discomfort, fear, or pain.

Instead of suppressing your dog’s warning signs, you should focus on identifying and correcting the cause.

In veterinary settings, dogs are often stressed by the same sources.

In the waiting room

Exposure to other animals

Slippery exam tables

Exposure to unfamiliar people

Exposure to unfamiliar people

Odors of disinfectants


Alarm pheromones

Handling body parts

Unusual noises

Painful procedures

Slippery floors

Close quarters

How to stop your dog from biting the vet

You must use a multifaceted approach to stop your dog from biting the vet. Here are some general tips that can help you. However, seeking professional assistance for safety reasons and correct behavior modification is essential.

1. Affect Medical Problems

If your dog tries to bite the vet because he is in pain, you should first address the medical issue that caused the pain.

Your vet can help you reduce the likelihood of another mishap by discussing pain management and other steps.

There is a good chance that your dog’s motivation to bite will diminish once you address the cause of his pain.

2. Avoid Rehearsal Problematic Behavior

When dogs bite, a negative reinforcement element is often at work. This allows the dog to escape an uncomfortable situation while also allowing him to “vent.”

Dogs will adopt this strategy in the future. Dogs are also stressed when placed in situations that make them feel uneasy and afraid for their life.

It’s, therefore, essential to prevent your dog from being placed in such extreme situations until you can work on the behavior problem and teach him better-coping skills.

3. You can muzzle train your dog.

No matter how calm your dog may be, training them to wear a muff and develop positive associations from a young age is essential. When put in a painful or scary situation, any dog may bite.

It is essential to do this if the dog has tried to bite someone before. Use a bite-proof muzzle for added safety. Basket muzzles allow you to feed treats still.

It is essential to train your dog positively, taking time to ensure that it feels comfortable. This guide will help you teach your dog how to wear a muff. You want to achieve a positive emotional response.

It is important to stress that your dog should not be placed in stressful situations because he wears a muzzle. The muzzle only provides an extra layer of protection during behavior modification sessions.

4. What are your dog’s triggers?

When you take your dog to the vet, knowing his problems is essential. What happened just before your dog bit you?

Did he examine his ears? He studied his ears. He was using an ophthalmoscope to look closely into his eyes. Was he lifting his feet?

You can use this information to understand better the issues your dog faces so you know where to focus most of your efforts. There may be several triggers that need to be addressed separately before combining.

Consider that your dog may not bite if he is in pain. It may be worthwhile to work on this issue to prevent the onset of fear memory.

5. Use desensitization or counterconditioning

You can work on making your dog’s triggers less alarming and even predict good things. You can achieve this by combining desensitization with counterconditioning.

Desensitization, a method of behavior modification that involves exposing dogs to triggers at lower intensities, is designed to help them learn to cope with their fears.

These low-level exposures enable dogs to be below the threshold and allow them to better cope with triggers.

Counterconditioning, a method of behavior modification that aims to establish positive associations with triggers, is designed to modify how people behave. These positive associations can be achieved by using high-value treats.

If your dog is usually OK with the vet but becomes nervous when they lift his paws, you must make those paw lifts more comfortable.

You can work with a professional to teach your dog how to feed a treat by moving the hand toward the paw. After a few repetitions, you can increase the criteria to touch the foot while barely feeding the dog a treat.

After the dog gets used to this, you may touch the paw a little more and treat it. After several repetitions, you can start lifting the foot half an inch. You can raise the paw a little more each time and work towards lifting it and inspecting it while your dog is fed multiple treats.

Feeding will also stop abruptly once interaction with the feet stops. Paw touching should be a sign of good things to come!

If your dog shows signs of discomfort, it may be a sign that the process has been rushed, and you need to go back a few steps before continuing.

The same exercise can be performed with volunteers and finally in the veterinarian’s office. Always feed the dog treats while the exam is being conducted.

6. Get to Know the Vet and Office

Familiarizing your pet with the veterinarian and his office would be best. Do not just take your dog to the vet for visits!

Say hello to the staff now and again and give them treats. You can reward your dog for stepping onto the scale. Visit an exam room and have a staff member give him treats.

Remember to be confident and happy, so your dog can sense all these positive feelings.

7. Professionals who Work with You

You must use force-free techniques for behavior modification to ensure everyone’s safety and the correct implementation.

Working with a certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist would be best. You can also work with a behavior consultant or dog trainer who uses force-free techniques and is experienced in working with dog fear and aggression.

8. Choose a Practice That Is Fear-Free

Did you know there are now more and more practices that promote fearlessness? Fear-free methods were created with dogs in mind.

Fear Free veterinarians have been specially trained to treat dogs that show signs of anxiety, fear, and stress. They use strategies to make veterinary visits less stressful and minimize fear or discomfort.

This Fear-Free Directory can help you find a fear-free veterinary clinic near you. You can find a fear-free veterinary practice near you by visiting this Fear-Free Directory.

During the visit, offering high-value toys or food can help promote positive associations and security. To prevent or address negative emotions, desensitisation is highly recommended.

— Riemer S. et al.


Edwards PT. Hazel SJ. Browne M. Serpell JA. McArthur ML. Smith BP. (2019). Investigating risk factor that predicts a dog’s fear during veterinary consults. PLoS ONE, 14(7): e0215416. S, Heritier C, Windschnurer I, Pratsch L, Arhant C, Affenzeller N. A Review on Mitigating Fear and Aggression in Dogs and Cats in a Veterinary Setting. Animals (Basel). 2021 Jan 12, 11(1):158. Doi: 10.3390/ani11010158. PMID: 33445559, PMCID PMC7826566.Volk J.O. Felsted K.E. Thomas J.G. Siren C.W. Executive Summary of the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc. 2011;238:1275-1282. doi: 10.2460/javma.238.10.1275Moffat K. Addressing Canine and Feline Aggression in the Veterinary Clinic. Vet. Clin. N. Am. Small Anim. Pract. 2008;38:983-1003. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2008.04.007.Herron M.E., Shreyer T. The Pet-Friendly Veterinary Practice: A Guide for Practitioners. Vet. Clin. N. Am. Small Anim. Pract. 2014;44.451-481.Yin S. Behavior Modification, Low-Stress Handling and Restraint of Cats & Dogs. Cattle Dog Publishing, Davis, CA, USA, 2009 Merola, I., Prato, E. and Marshall, S. Social Reference in Dog-Owner Dyads. Anim. Cogn. 2012;15:175-185. doi: 10.1007/s10071-011-0443-0

The content of this page is accurate to the author’s best knowledge and does not replace formal, individualized advice given by a qualified professional.

Matt Suh

As your go-to expert for everything one-of-a-kind, Matt is here to help you capture and share life’s most important moments. Find thoughtful gifts, creative ideas, and endless inspiration to create meaningful memories with family and friends.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button