10 Popular Excuses I Hear From Owners With Aggressive Pets

Dog wearing muzzle

Does your pet turn into a growling grump whenever you take her to the vet? Maybe he’s just a little nippy when you brush him or try to clip his toenails. Or perhaps she’s one of those pups who gets super stressed whenever kids are around.

Most of us whose pets can get aggressive let unsuspecting humans know the risk before they enter the zone of high probability for bad interactions. A surprisingly high percentage of pet owners, however, are either clueless when it comes to their pets’ proclivities or unwilling to divulge the fact of their pets’ aggression — as if this common reaction somehow speaks ill of them.

Unfortunately, when owners fail to fully comprehend or fess up to the reality of their pets’ propensity for nippiness, they tend to put veterinarians and their teams at risk.

Sure, veterinary medicine is a risky business. It’s a fact of life for us, so we don’t hold it against the animals when they act out. We do, however, get irked by owners who observe aggressive behavior in their pets and fail to warn us about it ahead of time and minimize the behavior, or make excuses for the behavior.

Making excuses for aggression isn’t an issue in and of itself, especially since most owners think of them as explanations rather than excuses. What it signals, however, is that an owner isn’t taking the problem as seriously as he should be.

Here are 10 common claims that I typically hear in the aftermath of a dangerous encounter:

“She’s never bitten anyone before!”

Sure, it’s possible. A veterinary hospital can be a strange and forbidding place, and there’s always a first time for everything. The problem with this comment is that it speaks to the owner’s desire to downplay the significance of the event, which doesn’t tend to give us the warm fuzzies when it comes to future interactions.

“He never did this with my previous vet.”

It’s undoubtedly the case that every animal hospital and each individual veterinarian will exert their own unique effects on any given pet, but with this comment, the implication is that we're doing something to trigger the aggressive behavior, instead of acknowledging that this is an innate issue that needs to be addressed.

“That’s just her way of talking.”

Maybe so, but I’m not taking your word for it. In almost any version of dog and cat language, a low rumbling sound means aggression. Interpret this sound at home at your own peril, but don’t put our staff at risk by denying that a growl just happened. At the very least, don’t act all surprised when the vet wants to apply a muzzle. It’s our flesh on the line, after all.


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