How would you feel, if you were visiting your doctor or dentist, and someone you didn’t know came over and started invading your personal space? You wouldn’t like it, would probably change seats, and might even tell that person to stop bothering you. This could be exactly how your dog feels when you visit the vet, and other dog owners think that it’s perfectly all right to allow their dog to investigate yours.
There are certain rules of good behavior when you take your dog to the clinic. I like to call these rules “vetiquette,” and all responsible dog owners should know the rules.
Rule #1: Use a Leash
Now, you know that I usually talk about great products for dogs and their owners, but I don’t usually start talking about them right away. I’m going to deviate from pattern this time around, and tell you, right out of the gate, that you need a leash. That is the first rule of vetiquette – keep your dog on a leash when you visit the vet.
PetsLovers Club makes a really good six-foot leash six. It’s double-ply nylon, so you know it will hold even the most active dog, and it won’t hurt your hands. It has a 4.9-star rating at Amazon. The retail price is $39.95, but Amazon has it for just $14.95. It comes in red, black, blue or reflective red. It feels light enough that even small dogs will not be uncomfortable, but strong enough that it’s even used by horse trainers.
If you don’t already have a good leash, I can unreservedly recommend this one. It also comes with a better-than-money-back guarantee – if you don’t like the leash, for any reason, just get in touch with Pet Lovers Club, and they will give you your money back, and let you keep the leash. You can always give it away or donate it to a shelter, so everyone wins.
Rule #2: Remember That the Vet Clinic Is Not a Dog Park
If you do want to socialize with other dogs and their owners, ask permission. Some people love it when you express an interest in their dog, and others not so much. Also, do a bit of observing before you approach another dog owner.
Unless you’ve overheard the owner speaking to clinic staff, and you’re confident that a person and their dog are there for a routine visit, it might be best to keep your distance. My friend Neila was once approached at the vet’s as she brought in an aging Rottweiler. A well-meaning man expressed the opinion that her dog was beautiful, and “I hope he’s not sick!”
Neila’s response? “He has advanced liver cancer. He’s here to be put to sleep.” So tread carefully, and if the dog looks “off,” resist the urge to socialize.
Rule #3: If Your Dog Is a Jerk, Let People Know
Not all dogs are good with animals, or with people either. If your dog is likely to try to take a chunk out of someone, or their dog, make sure that they know not to approach. Let clinic staff know that the dog could be a problem patient. Vets and vet techs know how to approach difficult animals, but unless they are forewarned, they will likely assume that your dog is well-behaved. You might want to consider bringing someone with you who can hold your place while you wait outside with your dog. Keep in mind, too, that most vets will make house calls.
Rule #4: Be Helpful
If your dog needs to be placed on an examining table, it is very discourteous to expect your vet to do all the heavy lifting. Small dogs are typically no problem, but if you have a medium to large breed that can’t simply jump up on the table, common courtesy would suggest that getting him up there should be a cooperative effort.
Rule #5: Be Honest
First off, it’s just not nice to lie. Second, it’s not helpful. And third, your vet is going to see through you in a heartbeat. If you have neglected an issue to the point where you need a vet visit, resist the urge to claim that your dog has “only been like this for a couple of days.” Come clean, and then let your vet tell you what can be done to help your dog.
Rule #6: Don’t Be a Know-It-All
You might know a great deal about dogs. I like to think that I do, because they are my passion, and I spend a great deal of my time reading everything I can find about all things dog-related. But I would never go to the veterinary clinic and announce that the dog I’ve brought in has a certain condition, and needs a certain type of medication. Your vet is not there to hand out pills based on your recommendation.
Rule #7: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…
You know how this usually ends. But when it comes to your dog, it could just as easily end with “…go elsewhere.” What I mean by this is that it is very bad manners to speak ill of your vet to other people, if you plan on going back to the same vet. Maybe there were some things you didn’t like about the visit, or a staff member rubbed you the wrong way, but honestly, if it was bad enough to talk about, why are you even returning to that clinic? Word can get around, and griping over small matters (especially if you haven’t brought them to the attention of the clinic manager) is not going to win you any friends.
There are bad vets out there. Think of it this way – in every graduating class, there has to be someone who was at the bottom. If you think that this is your vet, then I give you carte blanche to let other people know. But don’t sweat the small stuff.
The Final Word
Basic vetiquette is just common courtesy – to your vet, and to the other people and animals who are also at the clinic. Be polite, be considerate, and remember that leash!