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German Shepherd Dog on leash with a woman wearing a face mask outdoors.
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As their breeder, you have done everything you can to socialize your puppies before they go to their new homes, and you’ve gone the extra mile to accomplish this in the face of challenges due to COVID-19. But one thing that is very different now is the puppy’s first visit to his new vet. Veterinary practices are having patients wait outside with their owners for a vet tech to come out and take them inside to see the doctor. Owners are not allowed inside at all, which may be more frightening for them than it is for the puppy.

Things you, the breeder, can do to help prepare your puppies for COVID-19 vet visits:

  • To expose them to “more” people, enlist household members and any extended family members with whom you have safely socialized during the pandemic. They can wear different clothing – coats, hats, glasses, wigs, even costumes around the puppies. And of course, face masks! Make sure that they dispense extra special treats to the puppies during these encounters. For even more tips, read Early Socialization of Puppies during the Pandemic.
  • When you take them to the vet’s office, get out of the car, greet the vet tech, and ask him or her to give the puppy a treat before taking him inside. Advise puppy buyers to do the same.

Tips you can give your puppy buyers on how they can make vet visits less stressful for the new family member (and themselves):

  • Visit fun places in the car, not just the vet: Too many dogs only get to go for a car ride for a trip to the vet’s office. Make sure car rides are enjoyable by taking your dog out and about to lots of fun places. A ride to a fast-food drive-in (where the puppy gets a bite of something good!), the park, on a curbside grocery pickup, or a visit to a home improvement store to just walk around a little, for example.
  • Continue to accustom your new puppy to handling: Touch your puppy all over. Be sure you lift the lips to check the teeth and mouth area, touch the ears inside and out, and lift each paw to massage between paw pads. This takes just a few minutes a day. Give yummy treats while doing these things.
  • Advise your buyers to continue with socializing their puppies, just as they would normally but with COVID-19 safety measures in place. Here is a handout that you can print and send home with them: Covid-19 Puppy Socialization Guidelines
  • Putting a new owner at ease about handing off her new puppy to a stranger in the vet’s parking lot might be the biggest challenge. If they have a veterinarian they’ve known for years then they know what to expect and can trust that their puppy will be handled with care. But if this is their first puppy and first experience with a new vet, it will be worrying. Having that face-to-face talk with the veterinarian about the new puppy is a milestone event that a new owner doesn’t want to miss, and veterinarians do understand this.

Advise your puppy buyers on how to find the right vet. They should ask friends for references and about how their dogs are handled by the staff. When they have found a practice they feel good about, they should talk to the vet before they bring their puppy home to ask how visits will be conducted. Veterinary practices are always looking for new ways to put their patients at ease (read Help Your Puppies Have Vet Visits With Less Stress).

How a new owner might expect a vet appointment to go:

  • Owner calls the office from their car when they arrive with the puppy, and waits there for an attendant to come outside to take the puppy in.
  • Owner waits outside during the appointment. When finished, the receptionist will probably call to settle the bill.
  • The puppy will be returned to the owner. The attendant will relay any necessary information about the appointment and any medications given. If there was anything out of the ordinary or something besides a basic checkup or vaccinations, the veterinarian will personally phone the owner.
  • Everyone will be wearing a mask!

For more tips on making everyday life easier with your dog, our expert trainers at the AKC GoodDog! Helpline are available seven days a week for your calls: 

The AKC is here to help owners with questions and concerns about COVID-19 and dogs. Find answers to your questions, plus at-home activity ideas, training tips, educational resources, and more on our Coping With COVID-19 hub.