There are a few things that happen every day at work and they never cease to amaze me.
When I go in room with a dog I always offer my hand for the dog to sniff. It don’t think about it, it is instinct. If I’m going to be on the floor with a big dog I kneel with my body angled away from the dog and talk to him before trying to touch him. It is polite. Most dogs know that I am the big bad V-E-T. They don’t want anything to do with me. An attempt to make friends can help lower anxiety instead of just grabbing the dog and getting started on the exam.
At least once a day I have an owner get a bit worked up about this and start insisting in a slightly offended tone, “He won’t bite you. You don’t need to be afraid of him.” The dog and I particularly love it when this is accompanied by the owner shoving the dog at me.
2. … unless I have a reason to not trust your dog.
We see a lot of dogs in a day. I’ve seen a huge number of dogs in my career. I’m pretty good at assessing a dog’s body language at a glance. If we come into the room and don’t approach your dog, there is a reason.
Your dog doesn’t have to be snarling and snapping for us to be wary of him. It is usually the look in his eye. Trust us on this one. He may be the sweetest animal in the entire history of dogs at home but he isn’t at home right now. He feels threatened and may feel that his people are also being threatened.
If your dog has been aggressive at the vet before let us know before we try to handle him. Don’t wait until the first bite attempt and then laughingly say, “Yeah, he didn’t like his last vet either.” Also if your dog is snarling and snapping and straining at the leash when I walk in, please for the love of all that is holy don’t let go of the leash and yell, “Go say hi!!” I got a lot of extra gray hair from that one.
3. It isn’t a trick question.
When I ask you questions it is for a specific reason but I’m not trying to trip you up or make you out to be a horrible person. People get super defensive at times. No need. The biggest thing that freaks out dog owners is “What does he eat?” When I ask what he is eating, I’m usually wondering about coat quality or allergies and want to get him on a higher quality diet. I don’t have a problem with “people food” as long as it is healthy. I encourage feeding meat and vegetables as long as the meat isn’t adding too many calories every day. Now the lady that asked me why I thought her dog wasn’t losing weight when he only ate once a day got a bit of a talking to when she admitted that once a day he ate a bowlful of dog food topped with handfuls of cheese in addition to the steak later on. Too many calories for a little dog.
Cat owners freak out when I ask if the cat ever goes outside. I just want to know if we need to talk about leukemia vaccines and deworming for hunters. I’m not judging. I have a cat who I can’t keep in. Please don’t hyperventilate on me. By the way, cats hunt. You don’t need to apologize that you ‘let’ him eat a mouse. I congratulate the cat for making himself useful.
4. Animals get fleas
If I point out that your animal has fleas it is not a moral judgement about you. Don’t get offended. It happens to the best of us.
5. The person or place who provided your new pet may not know everything.
There are many fine breeders out there but there are also a lot who are not so good. Same goes for rescues or pet stores. I may be completely full of crap myself but I get suspicious when new owners come in with paperwork that says explicitly not to trust their veterinarian. Why would they come to us if they aren’t going to at least give our opinions a listen?
There is one puppy mill that sends puppies home with chicken dewormer. The paperwork says to give it to them for 5 days NO MATTER WHAT YOUR VETERINARIAN SAYS. They use that bold print and everything.
Another pet store says what food the puppies have been eating (good) and then says that if they change the brand that the puppy will die. Not kidding. It turns out that store sells that brand of obscure food. Coincidence?
I saw a kitten once that a pet store (with a history of super sick kittens) gave to a person because it was dying on the condition that she never take it to a vet. Ever? Even if it survived the illness?
We did go to school for a long time. Just humor us and pretend that we might know something that your cousin’s sister’s aunt Sally who has had dogs for years might not be fully aware of. You are free to ignore our advice when you leave but it is what you came in for.