Q: I know my Rottweiler mix, Rocco, is huge, scary-looking and growls when he gets talkative but he’s really a big baby. Every idiot vet I’ve ever taken him to wants to muzzle him. How do I find a vet who isn’t afraid of big dogs?
A: For argument’s sake, let’s say your livelihood depends on a) interaction with dogs and b) the use of your limbs. Would you honestly say that you would rely on one biased person’s opinion of their dog’s temperament to ensure your safety and keep food on your family’s table?
I didn’t think so.
After all, regardless of your dog’s true nature in an at-home environment, his innate ability to maim your veterinarian is undeniable, right? (I’m assuming here that Rocco has teeth.) Moreover, any dog is way likelier to react unpredictably (aggressively so!) in a stressful environment (a veterinary hospital qualifies).
Given these realities, why would you ever consider putting anyone at risk in the presence of your “talkative big baby”?
But rest assured, you are not alone. Though few are as clueless as you appear to be, many dog owners view a muzzle as a condemnation of their dog’s character. Which we totally get (Hannibal Lecter and all that).
Which is why, if we’re sensitive, we’ll take the time to explain that a muzzle is a mere precaution that serves as a painless tool to make sure no one ends up in the hospital. Which happens way more often that you might imagine. (Note: Any animal bite sustained by any of my employees, no matter how slight, requires an immediate doctor’s visit. No exceptions!)
But let’s get back to the real point of this column: Your dangerous willingness to disregard your dog’s potentially aggressive behavior. Let me explain:
Growliness is only very rarely a benignly “talkative” behavior. Most dogs who growl –– under any circumstances –– are usually trying to communicate their disapproval of something in their environment. In dog language, it’s a clear warning. Where safety is concerned, it should never be interpreted otherwise.
Your inability to acknowledge this fact is a big deal, not only for those of us who have to put ourselves at risk every time we walk into an exam room with owners like you, but especially for dogs like Rocco whose behavioral problems are swept under the rug and remain forever unresolved.
Good luck finding a vet who isn’t an “idiot” by your standards!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.