The Irreverent Vet Speaks out on Dog Owners Helping in Exam Rooms

Our customer service department gets a lot of email from dog lovers about every type of question you can imagine about dogs.

Recently, they forwarded some emails they thought were suited to me, the Irreverent Veterinarian. They knew that I would speak the truth regardless of if pet owners or other veterinarians liked it or not.

The email that I'll address today is…

"Dear PetPlace – can you ask someone to write an article from the vet's perspective on how a dog should behave (or be trained to behave) in the vet's office? I'm never sure how much assistance the vet wants from me when examining my dog."

So…how do vets think dogs should behave? Well, in a very basic way… the ideal dog should be trained to take commands and not be aggressive. That would make our job a whole lot easier.

Dogs should be trained in basic commands such as sit, stay, and down. They should be able and willing to walk properly on a leash. They should see people as the boss and not be aggressive.

One pet peeve (no pun intended) is when dog owners insist on restraining their dog that is potentially aggressive. They generally don't restrain their dog that well (not well enough for me or my veterinary staff to feel or actually be "safe"). Here it the Peeve: As their dog growls or tries to bite …they tell their dog "good dog or good boy/girl". Showing signs of aggression is NOT good. The right response is NO! NO! NO! When they behave well and show NO aggression, then they are a "good dog". Get the picture?

Many dogs are more aggressive when the owner is in the room or present than when they are not. Some dogs will feel they need protect their owner. The owners' nervousness and excitement makes their dog even more nervous and excited in some circumstances fueling any potential for aggression or misbehavior.

Our responsibility is to be safe and to ensure our staff is safe. We want to treat pets humanely to the best of our ability and do the best thing we can for them to prevent disease and treat medical problem while being safe.

Many times this means that we need to use restraint or muzzle some dogs. Some dogs really do so much better when their owner is not present. Our veterinary staff is trained to properly restrain and deal with lots of dog personalities.

Sometimes "taking a dog in back" works really well. Away from their nervous and anxious owners, some dogs relax as though to say, "okay – it's just you and me – now I can focus on you now and not worry about my anxious master in the other room". When in "back", dogs are gently restrained so other staff will be safe and the dog is rewarded for good behavior.

To make matters even worse for veterinary staff, if an owner is bit while restraining their own dog, the veterinary hospital and veterinarian can be liable. This makes it very uncomfortable and tedious when dealing with dogs with volatile personalities and bonded owners.

My Final Thoughts

Don't take offence if veterinary staff wants to restrain, take a dog in back or muzzle your dog. It is for your and their safety. They have a LOT of experience reading dogs and their behavior. What you see and what they see may be different. Many dog owners have "dog goggles on" and believe their dog will never bite. Most bites to my technicians came from dogs that the owners believed would never bite.

Many times veterinarians and their staff have instincts about a dogs potential for aggression. Often, they have learned from their mistakes and learned to trust their instincts.

Veterinarians and their staff love dogs or they would not be in this profession. Their goal is to do the best for your dog while being safe.

So, in response to the comment "I'm never sure how much assistance the vet wants from me when examining my dog." If the veterinarian wants your help, they will ask. If they don't, don't be offended. Let them do their job and help your dog.

That's my opinion and that's all I'll say.

Feel free to disagree or give me your thoughts. Email me I'm curious about what you think.



The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can't say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, and the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Politically Incorrect Vet and not the views of and are not endorsed by