Last year at Baxter’s annual vet check-up, we had a dogtor that we’d not met before.

Everything went fine, and then she said, “We’ll just take him into the back to draw a little blood.”

A few minutes later, we heard snarling and screeching as Baxter reacted to strangers handling his feet. My husband and I exchanged a look and when the vet came back into the examining room we sheepishly said, “He’s sensitive about his feet.”

She said:

“That dog is dominant. If it was my dog, I’d be going through every doorway in front of him.”

She went on to say a few other things about Baxter’s “dominance.”

Dominance is a topic for a whole other post.

The vet’s comments disappointed me for a few reasons:

A tale of two vet visits - How finding the right vet makes all the difference
1. She judged my dog. She’d only seen my dog for about 10-15 minutes. Admittedly, she’s an experienced professional who sees a lot of dogs every day. But I still feel it takes more than 15 minutes to get to know most creatures.

2. She judged us. We felt like bad dog owners with a bad dog.

3. I didn’t feel her judgment was accurate. In observing Baxter with us, other people and dogs, he’s one of the least assertive dogs I know. When I cut his toenails, his tail curls tight between his legs. I may be biased, but he appears more afraid than aggressive to me.

This year when I booked Bax’s annual appointment, the assistant said, “Does it matter what vet you see?” Initially I said no, but I called back the next day and asked to see a vet that we’ve seen before and really liked.

This year’s appointment was a very different experience.

We went through the basics, and then the dogtor said, “We’ll just draw a little blood.” But instead of taking Bax into the back, he brought a tech into the room with us. He asked us to hold Baxter and give him lots of scratches to distract him.

The blood was drawn and Baxter didn’t seem to notice.

It was a much more comfortable experience for all of us, and most importantly for Baxter.

I’m very grateful to our vet. I’m grateful that he trusted us to hold Baxter and keep everyone in the room safe. I’m grateful that he thought about how to keep Baxter most comfortable. I’m grateful that he showed me that there are other options for treatment and tests.

Standing up for your dog

Sometimes I find it a bit difficult to be assertive. I don’t want to be difficult or demanding or rude. However, my experience between these two check-ups showed me that the most important thing I can do is ask.

  • Ask for the vet I want.
  • Ask if they can treat Baxter in the examining room with us.
  • Ask what the test involves and be up front about how Bax might react.
  • Ask if there’s another way to perform the test.

Sure I want to be polite. But my first priority has to be my dog and what’s best for him. There’s nothing wrong with asking a few questions to try to make that happen.

How do you help your dog be comfortable at the vet?

Anyone have a similar experience to share?

Julia and her husband Matt live on a 129-acre farm in Ontario, Canada. She is a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

How the right vet can make all the difference