This post has been a long time coming, many people when then have a problem with their dog – ANY problem, will consult their vet. I have no problem with this, vets should be a great resource for pet owners to go to for advice.
The problem is that some vets feel the need to advise on everything dogs, even subjects they are far from qualified or experienced in.
I think I can qualify as a very experienced dog owner. I have been working, training, breeding dogs all my life, but I am NOT qualified to give advice on dog surgery and illness in dogs etc. I am certainly not more qualified than any vet, so I don’t give this type of advice. Instead, I refer to those that are qualified.
Every week I have people come to see me with their dogs and they have been given advice on diets, behaviour, training, housing and many other facets of owning dogs and living with dogs by their vet. The problem is that the advice given is usually dead wrong and at times given to influence the dog owner to use products or services the vet will benefit from.
Don’t get me wrong, I have dozens of vets who refer people to me every week and other trainers, behaviourists etc. but there are some that seem hell bent on forcing their (often incorrect) opinions on pet owners, and the outcome can be disastrous.
I’m going to cover a few of the more common topics that I hear almost daily and try to demonstrate where the problems arise.
Walk into many vet surgeries and you will be told that Raw Feeding is not good for dogs, why?
Well whilst a lot of vets sell dog food for a healthy margin, I truly believe the rest just don’t know much if anything about raw feeding. Maybe they have not researched modern theory and simply just go with the commercial recommendation of kibble.
I would have no problem at all if it was explained something like this:
Vet: I am not a nutritionist, but I personally feed my dog this” (points at bag of premium kibble).
I would have no problem with that, but in reality it goes more like: –
“No, don’t feed your dog raw food… He will not grow properly, He will get sick, He will get salmonella, It will make him grow to big, small, long, fat etc, His life will be shortened, Raw meat will make him vicious” etc etc
Of course there is zero evidence to support any of these statements but they are pushed on pet owners often.
I feed my own dogs Raw, have for nearly 20 years at writing this post. l have written an eBook (Raw Feeding Made Easy) on the topic that covers how to feed raw and myths about raw feeding, but I still say “do your own research“. Don’t believe me, I am not a Canine Nutritionist, I have studied diets of dogs almost to obsession levels but this is nothing more than my opinion based on my research and my experience.
The common ways that people are pushed into desexing healthy pets are often false too, here are some myths: –
Your dog will develop behaviour problems if you don’t desex him or her. FALSE!
Behaviour problems do not derive from sex organs, but from dogs that have not been trained and or socialised correctly.
Your dog’s behaviour problems will go away if you desex them.
FALSE, in some females desexing can increase the propensity for aggression.
Your dog will be easier to train if you desex him / her.
FALSE. Most dogs that compete at the highest levels in world competition are entire.
Your male dog will urinate everywhere if you do not desex him.
FALSE. It’s called TOILET TRAINING, folks.
Your dog will get cancer in his testicles or her ovaries if you do not desex him/her.
FALSE! Modern science shows that the risks of desexing outweigh the risk of cancer in entire males / females.
If you don’t desex your dog he will escape your yard and go mating.
FALSE! Secure housing is important for all dogs, if your dog can get out to mate, he can get out any other time.
If you don’t desex your dog, you are an irresponsible dog owner!
FALSE! If you place your limit of responsibility on desexing, I’m guessing you will be an irresponsible dog owner in many other ways. being responsible means making the best choices for you, your dog and the community / environment the dog lives in, it isn’t about deciding to remove sex organs or keep your dog intact.
Male dogs can breed 365 days per year, females twice a year so males are more important to desex.
FALSE! For a male to mate he needs a female in her cycle.
I have owned dogs all my life, entire dogs, I have never had an accidental mating. I am not a vet, but I am a trainer, behaviourist and breeder and my dogs grow to optimal size, live long lives and are super healthy. Again don’t just copy me, do your research!
Desexing is the right choice for some people and their pets but it is not and shouldn’t be a default practice. I am not advocating uncontrolled breeding, over breeding, dogs wandering streets, howling dogs and ignoring your dogs propensity to breed – but if you are a responsible dog owner that trains and houses your dog effectively, then desexing may not be the best choice for you.
There have been many recent studies completed that indicate that desexing or early desexing can actually reduce the life span of your dog and pose other risks, so do your homework.
Vets selling puppy classes based on ideals that are not true is another common problem we face here. Most people who read my articles or who have been to me for training know that I don’t use the common socialisation template that suggests that you let your dog play with other dogs, people and learn to love them uncontrollably. This Blog post covers my thoughts on Socialisation if you want to get up to speed with my views.
Some puppy schools are excellent, some are extremely poor and there is a wide range in between, in fact here is another post on Puppy Schools, the good the bad and the ugly.
An 8 week old puppy has the learning ability of a genius, and this part of a puppy’s life is aimed at the pup growing into a dog that knows how to find fun and how to survive in a given environment.
If you go to a puppy school that is a free for all session of insane behaviour, you can and likely will end up seeing behaviour problems in your adolescent dog. I consult with people every week with dogs that need “early intervention“, these are young dogs that have developed behaviour problems from early (poor) social exposure.
Now aiming at a low value (neutral) is my idea of the right way to raise a pup, this is based on spending my life training and rehabilitating dogs, so actual experience. I understand that setting that low value is not everyone’s ideal outcome and I am fine with that. The problem occurs when vets tell people not to Neutralise their dogs, but instead attend their free for all puppy classes because “Neutralisation is bad“. When asked what Neutralisation is, they often don’t know, but will still say it’s bad…
The blog post I linked you to allows you to understand what values achieve what behaviours and still leaves you able to make the final choice of the value you set. I am not saying that dogs that learn to love playing with other dogs are bad, I am saying though that this can make training much more difficult and it is also fraught with risk.
I have worked with clients who brought me dogs that would not recall off other dogs, and we have worked and gained a reliable recall, but most of that work would not be required if we had left the value of other dogs somewhat lower, I don’t grow weeds so that I can pull them out later.
I have had the idea to write this article for a while now and when one of my puppy owners told me about their vet experiences, I thought now was a great time to voice this opinion.
When my puppy owner entered the surgery the vet couldn’t identify what breed the puppy was, that’s fine it is not always easy if you aren’t familiar with Malinois.
When the vet was told the pup was a Belgian Malinois, he was not familiar with the breed at all, but then did go on to say how Neutralisation was bad for this breed and that he would be better off attending the puppy school they run at the surgery. The vet also added the pup would be better off being fed kibble, although he did comment that the puppy was in excellent health (on a Raw Food diet!).
Why not just keep your (inexperienced) opinion to yourself Mr. Vet? You only succeeded in aggravating the new (potential life time) client and driving him (and his money) to another vet. The puppy presented in excellent physical health at 16 weeks, was a dream puppy that was perfectly behaved and in excellent condition, yes on raw food and whilst being neutralised.
Perhaps observe the benefits of these programs and learn what they can achieve for your clients and their dogs.
I wanted to finish this blog post by saying that, the majority of vets I know and that refer clients to me are excellent resources for most puppy owners, they refer on when they need to and are open to various ideas even if those ideas are unlike their own.
The key message of this blog post is, don’t do what I say, don’t do what your good or your bad vet says either, take this information on board and decide what is best for you and your dog.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts, so add your reply below!