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Today I took my GSD to my vet clinic for the first time, and she barked a low bark when the vet entered the room. The vet immediately told me the dog was aggressive and "not normal" because of that. The vet records from her previous owners finally faxed over, and unbeknownst to me and the people who had her directly before me, she had previously bitten someone. This resulted in the vet stating that I should never let her out without a muzzle and that they might not even perform her spay because she's "too aggressive." Is this an expected reaction? My girl stopped barking in less than 30 seconds, didn't pull towards the vet at any point, and after that went back to sniffing around the room. I muzzle her with a basket muzzle in highly populated areas anyway because I haven't had her long enough to know what her reactions are to certain situations and she sometimes barks and pulls on the leash, but the vet implied that I was lying about her being not aggressive around me because it's also "not normal" for me to have a muzzle in the first place. I was a bit put off by the vet who seemed to imply that my dog would never be rehabilitated despite the fact that when the dog bit was when she had owners who kept her underfed, under socialized, improperly restrained because she got hit by a car, and left scars all over her muzzle from abuse. I understand being cautious because she could do a lot of damage if she wanted to, but the vet didn't even give her a chance! She wouldn't touch her until I muzzled her, and then took her to where she could be with a vet tech to even weigh her. Maybe I'm overly sensitive because she's my dog, but I thought it was a bit much on the part of the vet. Is it just me?


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Vets are NOT behaviorists or trainers. I would be put off by the vet too. While it's perfectly understandable to be cautious and request a muzzle while examining her, especially since there is a previous bite, it's a little over the top to say a dog is "not normal" and aggressive over a bark.
 

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I would be real curious about the previous bite. Can you get the details?

I might shop around for a more confident vet... One who believes that animals can be rehabilitated. I'm NOT an expert, but I have had some good success with several rescue animals. Not aggressive ones, though Jack almost fell into that category (DA not HA), but abused animals will sometimes bite defensively, and not just because they're aggressive and need to be thrown away.

I do understand though that she's cautious around a dog wearing a muzzle (though your reasoning makes good sense to me). Sounds like a combo of both: a bit much on the vet's part and some sensitivity on your part. Maybe this just isn't the vet for this dog?
 

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A low bark, stiff posture, tail still or slowly wagging could be the precursor to a bite. You do not want your dog to bite the vet. You want your dog to be examined. It is far better if the vet feels safe, so muzzle the dog.

You say that you have not had the dog long enough and that the dog has had a previous bite record. I do not think the vet should subject himself or his staff to a bite in this situation. Your dog is guilty until proven innocent. It has bitten, and now you need to make the dog a model citizen. I don't think it is fair for you to think everyone should give your dog a chance to bite them, before being cautious.

If the vet did not require muzzling, the vet would have not lost is fear of the dog, he would simply have been afraid. Dogs can sense that, and might react badly to that. That I'm-afraid-of-your-big-teeth pheromone probably smells an awful lot like the I'm-going-to-tie-you-up-and-rob-your-owner pheromone.

Think of it this way, if you went to the vet today and your dog made that low bark, and after the vet started examining her, the dog became nervous, charged forward and bit the vet. Happened in a split second, no way to avoid it. But now you know and while the vet is not happy about it, he isn't suing you. But now you are wondering if you should put the dog down. You would be wondering what would happen if she did that to a guest in your house or yard.

I think that the vet did the right thing. However, the vet could have been much better at what he said.

How would this come across:

Vet comes in, dog makes the low bark. The vet says, Ah well, we don't all like the vet do we, how about we put this muzzle on so we can give you a good check up?
When did you get her? Ok, well you'll probably need to work on some training, maybe a behaviorist to make sure she adjusts to the new situation well, and won't have to wear this thing all the time.

Dogs live in the moment. That previous abuse may make her less likely to trust people in general, but it is over now. That means, that we can't give her a get out of jail free card for the rest of her life just because she had a negative period in her life. At the same time, you know that her threshold is low enough that she is likely to bite if the circumstance is wrong for her. So start like she is a puppy, go to the vet on other days and have lots of treats, and have them give her treats and just leave. Teach her to like the vets office. Train her and teach her to trust you, even in strange situations. The more you work with her, the more you will be able to learn whether she is going to be fine in whatever situation.

 

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Well that sucks! IDK why the vet would criticize you for the basket muzzle, and make a judgement call on that. My puppy barked at my vet a few weeks ago too, but since my vet has GSDs he didn't freak out and immediately label him aggressive. Although with your dog having a bite history, you do have to be careful. Which it sounds like you are. I'd be looking for a new vet, because this one doesn't sound as though she likes GSDs very much.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for your replies!

The only info I have on the bite is that it occurred two years ago when she was a puppy (less than a year). The same owners kept her after that (long enough for her to get hit by a car) until the family who had her before I did got her. They had other dogs and kids and said she never acted aggressively towards them. The only problem I've had with her is leash reactivity, but that has greatly declined since she's been learning leash manners and been exercised more consistently.

I do understand the request for the muzzle, but I think she went a bit over the top in implying that she's some crazed aggressive animal who she might not even consent to spaying.


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Find a different vet - I can also understand wanting her muzzled, but to refuse to spay? It sounds like this vet has some preconceived notions about your dog without really knowing her and I personally wouldn't want that vet treating my dog. I would find someone with more compassion and better "bedside" manners.
 

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I get why the vet wants to stay safe and doesn't want to risk a bite. I would never criticize someone for doing that...especially when it comes to a dog with a bite history.

I don't get the spaying issue though...she'd be under...whats the difference if she's aggressive or not?
 

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She said that since dogs usually stay overnight with a spay, they didn't want aggressive dogs there though I didn't understand why they couldn't just put the basket muzzle on her while she was still under anesthesia since it's a Baskerville muzzle so she could eat and drink still.


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I agree with the others. The muzzle request wouldn't faze me, but the comment about the spaying really puzzles me. Personally I never leave my female dogs overnight after a spay, I'd rather them be home at the end of the day where I can watch them. Some vets have a 24/7 staff that stays with your animals but most don't so it's not worth leaving them there

Regardless, find a new vet. If they're not willing to work with you and your dog then find someone that will. A nervous vet with a problem dog is a recipe for disaster

A vet visit, especially for nervous or reactive dogs should always be as positive as possible. See if you can find a vet that will allow you to drop in randomly just to weigh her, or walk around the front and get treats from the staff. One of the best things to help a dog is to show them a vet office doesn't always have to be a scary place where they're always being probed or having needles
 

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Yeah, I think I'm going to go with another vet. She never even introduced herself when she entered, which is a real turn off in itself. She also seemed shocked that my girl didn't show any more aggressive tendencies past the bark when she entered like when she took her to the back to get bloodwork and vaccines. I think I'll look for someone who is cautious but doesn't assume that she will always act aggressively lest that become a self-fulfilling prophesy.


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She said that since dogs usually stay overnight with a spay, they didn't want aggressive dogs there
So what happens if you have an emergency and she needs surgery? Is she going to refuse?

Go find a different vet. That above is a clincher for me
 

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We just came back from the vet. Our vet seem to understand that GSDs may like to "guard". When the vet techs take Molly away from me, as today to get some stitches out, she was fine with the ortho vet and the tech. They then brought her back to me and we waited for the ortho vet. When he came in the room, Molly barked fiercely, hackles up. Vet was totally calm, knew Molly would be more protective around us, Molly then quickly calmed down herself and all was well.

Did the vet try and work with your dog? Offer treats, let some time pass so the dog gets comfortable, approach in a calm and gentle manner? If not, I would try to find a vet that is familiar with this breed.
 

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I kind of don't get the big deal...the vet is refusing service. Unless you have personal reason to HAVE to go to this vet (they're super knowledgeable about this or that), its not like you're dumping them for no reason. They're pretty much telling you they don't want to deal with your dog. And in the case of their livelihood, I can't really blame them. Any type of bite from your dog could lead them to be out of work for a few weeks.

I'm not trying to defend the vet, I just get surprised at the judgments made by others over a 2 paragraph explanation of what happened. Maybe there were other things the vet saw that OP didn't see, or just didn't describe...vets do deal with a whole heck of a lot more dogs than your average person, and many of them do learn to deal with a lot more than most of us ever will.

I like the fact that people have no problem putting others in risk, or judging their decision not to put themselves in harms way, but when put in the same situation they'd probably do the same thing.
 

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I kind of don't get the big deal...the vet is refusing service. Unless you have personal reason to HAVE to go to this vet (they're super knowledgeable about this or that), its not like you're dumping them for no reason. They're pretty much telling you they don't want to deal with your dog. And in the case of their livelihood, I can't really blame them. Any type of bite from your dog could lead them to be out of work for a few weeks.

I'm not trying to defend the vet, I just get surprised at the judgments made by others over a 2 paragraph explanation of what happened. Maybe there were other things the vet saw that OP didn't see, or just didn't describe...vets do deal with a whole heck of a lot more dogs than your average person, and many of them do learn to deal with a lot more than most of us ever will.

I like the fact that people have no problem putting others in risk, or judging their decision not to put themselves in harms way, but when put in the same situation they'd probably do the same thing.
I just went back and read each post, noone was against the dog being muzzled. In fact if I understand correctly the dog was already muzzled by the owner before the vet even stepped into the room (OP correct me if I'm wrong)

Now a dog can do damage even while muzzled but it's greatly reduced, if the vet was SO scared then why didn't she automatically call for a tech or two to help restrain the dog?

Selzer's points about working WITH the vet is a excellent point, and Jax's point about what would happen if emergency surgery was needed is just as valid.
 

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If my vet requested a muzzle for any of my dogs, I'd be fine with that. I want them safe, I certainly don't want a recordable bite and if they (the vet and/or staff) are nervous, my dog(s) might take advantage of that situation.

I can understand the vet wanting you to muzzle your dog since it's the first time YOU'VE taken the dog to the vet. For all anybody knew the dog could have been very Vet aggressive. Not a chance anybody wants to take. It will make no difference what so ever with the service you get from the vet if the dog is in a muzzle or not.

Once I knew my dog had bitten someone (for whatever reason), I would agree and utilize the muzzle anytime I was out in public. If the dog even so much as nips someone and you are aware of a previous bite, you could have your pants sued off and your dog PTS.

To me, the above are no-brainers.

However, if my vet ever threatened to withhold a service due to my dog's potential behavior, I'd find another vet.
 

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Other than the spay thing, which is really weird, I wouldn't have had a problem with the interaction. But I think I prefer "to the point" honesty over round about comments. If my dog (or kid for that matter) is a problem just come out and tell me, don't beat around the bush. I got a 5 year old dog from rescue and at first he kind of scared me. He never bit anyone, and he never stiffened up or growled, but the look on his face in certain situations scared me. He would look like a combination of fearful and "you better get out of here 'cause I am not sure what I might do". I took him to a groomer and she raved on and on about how sweet he was. It seemed like fake flattery to me so I went to another groomer the next time. This groomer said to me "boy is he stubborn". Sounded true to me so I stuck with her. Now six years latter he is a big fluffy laid back wussy, so they can improve.
 

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Definitely find a new vet. There are plenty of vets out there. It is important to me that I like and trust my vet. Like others have said, a muzzle is not big deal. I would have a problem with her refusal to spay and some of her comments. If I did not like her, my dog would pick up on that. Bad situation. There is a better vet out there for you and your girl.
 
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