One third of Brits admit to using 'code words' to help get their dog to the vets

One third of Brits admit to using 'code words' to help get their dog to the vets

A new study by Petplan has revealed the challenges Brits face when taking their dogs to the vet. Two thirds of dog owners (65%) find it difficult to get their dogs to the vet due to their pet’s anxiety and nerves about what might happen during the visit. To combat this, Petplan’s research delves into the creative approaches dog owners use to ease veterinary visits - including the use of code words and having their own ‘doggy’ language when communicating with their pets. 


With 1 in 3 pets needing an unexpected trip to the vet each year, many owners have resorted to linguistic tactics to help navigate a stress-free vet visit. One third use a code word to ease their dogs fears - using phrases such as ‘a visit to Dr Barker’ or the ‘Dogters’, and others said they verbally spell out ‘V-E-T’.

A quarter of dog owners (25%) have even seen their dogs running away upon hearing the word ‘vet’ and 3 in 10 (30%) have actively avoided a visit to the vets due to stress.

Whilst the biggest reason for stress stems from pets feeling too nervous (49%), they’re not the only ones. The research revealed that almost as many owners (43%) are equally as anxious about the visits as their pups - with 1 in 5 (21%) fearing that they might receive news that they didn’t want to hear.

However, it’s not just code words that Brits resort to when heading to the vets. Other creative tactics include the 47% of owners who choose to take their dogs out on a walk first - disguising the trip and making it feel like their normal routine, whilst 46% give their pets extra treats that day. 

The language we use around our dogs can certainly affect their behaviour, but it’s often not stress or anxiety that they’re feeling. Petplan’s recent survey additionally revealed that many pet owners had to lower their voice to prevent their dog from overhearing certain words which might lead to overexcitement. The nationwide study of 2,000 dog owners revealed the top ten words which owners whispered or disguised to prevent an overreaction to be: 

  1. ‘Walkies’ 
  2. ‘Treat’ 
  3. ‘Going for a walk’ 
  4. ‘Biscuits’
  5. ‘Bathtime/bath’
  6. ‘Dinnertime’
  7. ‘Take him/her to the vet’
  8. ‘Ball’
  9. ‘Going to the park’
  10. ‘Going in the car’

What’s more, a huge 54% of dog owners admit to using their own language to communicate with their furry friends. ‘Moon Moon’, ‘Tats’, and ‘Pitter Patter’, are amongst the weird and wonderful phrases that owners have creatively coined, and to celebrate these unique form of canine communication, Petplan has worked with lexicologist Tom Read Wilson to unveil its own doggy dictionary.

Tom Read Wilson, celebrity lexicologist, said, “Whilst I’m usually delving into the realm of human lexicon – there’s a whole world out there of alternative human/canine comms. Whilst each relationship between pet and owner is wonderfully unique, it’s been interesting to see crossover in some of the more unusual phrases that are frequently used by owners – and I have to say, I’m particularly taken with the portmanteau, ‘dogter’, to avoid canine ears pricking up at the ‘V’ word! I’m a huge advocate of all the creative ways we can use language and lexical choices to build deep rooted connections and relationships – and pets are no exception to this”. 

Petplan’s Trade Director Bella von Mesterhazy says, “Some dogs can be sensitive to certain words and tones so it’s interesting to see so many pet owners adopting playful code words and phrases to alleviate stress and overexcitement. We know visiting the vet can be an anxious time for both pets and owners so in addition to avoiding use of this word, it makes sense to try familiarisation techniques for your dog such as ‘pop in’ visits for a treat and a fuss. Making sure you have financial support available to help to cover the cost of vet bills can help make it less worrying for you too.” 

Alessandra Pacelli

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