This past weekend, I was able to take my sons and visit their grandmother (my mom!) for some overdue family time*. The community where I grew up is rural, not wealthy, honest, proud and exceedingly hard working. The relationships forged there molded me into who I am today as an adult. Many of the people who I looked up to with a mixture of respect laced with prideful apprehension as a youth are still there today. They are my former teachers, bus drivers, post office workers, bank tellers, town employees, parents of classmates, etc. Slowing down and comprehending where you have been instills a sense of potential of where your future can take you. I am certain without this particular foundation of my past, I would not be currently conspiring words to fit together on a blog as a veterinarian.

An appropriate foundation is equally important for the pets we have in our homes. It is our responsibility, as owners, to provide guidance, discipline, proper protocols, love, compassion and energy to these animals we assimilate into our families, no matter their ages (you CAN teach an old pet new tricks). If animals are left to behave based on their natural instincts and inclinations alone, it is quite possible unintended, negative situations will develop. A dog aggressively defending its meal (growling, barking, lunging, and biting) is great if you happen to be a Dingo in the Australian Outback, where you may not see another morsel to eat for a week. A dog aggressively defending its meal, served in an elevated stainless steel bowl, in a house in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac, while lovingly vacant Great-Aunt Hattie shuffles by carrying a plate of Fig Newtons for the grandbabies is not so great.

Veterinarians can play an integral part with a family having behavioral concerns regarding their pet. Vets, also, may encourage pet owners to seek out professional trainers to help with behavioral modifications. If an animal is exhibiting behavior which potentially could be injurious to a family member, I always recommend consulting with a trainer for more precise work. Certain trainers will even come to a home to witness behavior and create a template to help adjust the unwanted behaviors. A note of importance; we try to “adjust” and “contain” inappropriate behavior and do not expect to completely eliminate it. The goal is to lessen the exhibition of unwanted actions by our pets.

Additionally, puppy training classes can be an invaluable way to establish concise, wanted behaviors in a new pup. Supervised doggie daycare is a great way to promote socialization and get great exercise. Always chat with your vet first and see what recommendations he/she may have for you. A well behaved, well adjusted, confident pet is the ultimate goal. It can be a great deal of effort, but knowing that Great-Aunt Hattie’s cookies will reach their intended destination, makes it all so, so sweet.

Thanks for reading.

*I was able to visit with my sister Bea and Aunt Betty; two compassionate, vibrant souls who assuredly make the Earth a better place. My confidence in their computer literacy skills is such that I know they will see these words. Well, Aunt Betty will. I hope Bea can turn the damn computer on. See you soon!