DEAR OLD TRAINER: We have a 9-month old German Shepherd mix named Willie. Last week I took him to the vet and he growled and showed his teeth when the vet started to examine him. I put a muzzle on him, but after the exam the vet said, “That dog has a mean streak. I advise putting him down.” We’ve only had Willie three months, but I have really bonded with him and hate the idea of putting him down. What is your advice?
Mark, Reno, Nev.
DEAR MARK: Keep Willie, find a new vet.
In the movie “Broken Trail,” after the corrupt land baron orders them to leave town, Robert Duvall tells Kevin Costner, “Most times a man will tell you his bad intentions. If you listen, let yourself hear.”
The vet told you he is the wrong man for Willie. You paid him to use his knowledge and experience to keep your dog healthy. He advised you to take the life of a dog that did nothing but act exactly the way dogs are supposed to act.
Dogs should be wary of strangers touching them and poking them. It’s the natural response for all canines. Any competent vet knows that.
Willie was put in a strange place with a guy he never saw before handling him. He was protecting himself and protecting you.
Willie is young, but he knew not to trust that vet. His instincts were better than yours. Listen to Willie from now on when he dislikes someone.
There are lots of skilled, caring veterinarians in the world. Check with other dog owners and try vets they recommend. You’ll find one you like. Willie still may not like him, but a good vet understands dogs and knows being growled at is part of the job.
DEAR OLD TRAINER: Our vet died this spring and I took Molly and Fletch, our two Bassett hounds to one we had never used before. She seemed nice, but told me it was office policy not to allow the owner into the room while she examined the pets and gave them their shots. Our old vet always made wanted us in the room. What should we do?
Annette, Menlo Park, Calif.
DEAR ANNETTE: Tell her your policy is to always be with your dogs and if that conflicts with her policy you will find another vet.
I have never come across a vet who does not allow me in with my dogs, but if I did I would find a new one. I want to know what is happening with my dogs every minute they are being examined and they want me to be with them.
My vet tells me it makes it much easier for him to work with the dog when the owner is there to calm the dog and move him as the vet needs him moved.
That makes sense to me, but even if it made it harder on the vet I still am not going to allow anyone to work on my dogs when I am not present.
If a dog is being neutered or spayed or any other procedure where they are unconscious there is no reason for me to be present. But for a routine yearly visit all dog owners should be in the room with their dog.
A trainer for more than 30 years, Jack Haskins has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,500 dogs. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.