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The Importance of Asking About Behavior at Every Vet Visit


We often think of the vet as a place to take our furry members of the family for check ups, upset stomachs, and vaccinations. But your veterinarian is a great resource to have throughout your furry pal’s life. Aside from ensuring that your four-legged friend is in good health, your veterinarian is a trained specialist in pet welfare, and he or she is knowledgeable not just in physical health when it comes to your pet, but behavioral as well.

Case in point: when my dog, Juniper, was a few years old, she was very shy around guests and struggled with fear-based aggression when men entered my house. I did research and even worked with a trainer, but the best advice I received was actually from my veterinarian, who told me to plan a dinner party in which I skipped Juniper’s dinner (so she was extra hungry) and then gave a piece of hot dog to every man who entered the house. I then told them, per the vet’s instructions, to give the piece of hot dog to Juniper without making eye contact whenever she approached them. While this seemed like a relatively simple suggestion, it was a huge success and something I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of on my own. Not only did it drastically change Juniper’s behavior (she now assumes men who come into the house are going to give her a delicious treat) From then on, I went to my veterinarian for behavioral tips, and I’ve never been let down.

To start the conversation with your veterinarian, you can begin by asking what he or she feels most knowledgeable about when it comes to behavior. They may say they have a strong grasp on behavior in general for both dogs and cats; they may say they specialize in some areas in particular such as aggression or housebreaking, or they may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist, depending on what issues you’d like to address. Either way, we like to think of the vet as resource to take advantage of throughout our furry pal’s life, through the good and bad!

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