There have been a handful of times I have told potential clients that they probably don’t need me, and that I might not be able to help them. I hate to do it. I have vet bills, too. But there are times that they REALLY don’t need me, or even a board certified veterinary behaviorist. Sometimes what people need is a veterinarian.
People have been known to look at me sideways when I tell them that they need to go and get a vet check. But there are occasions that any scrupulous trainer is going to request that you get a vet check prior to hiring them on.
The first one is pretty easy, and I don’t lose any money or sleep over it most of the time. If you are going to compete in canine athletics, it’s always a great idea to get a vet check first, just to make sure the dog is healthy enough for the sport. Dogs hide pain fairly well sometimes, and I don’t want to train your dog to do anything that is going to hurt him.
The most common reason I go straight to a vet referral is for house soiling in a dog that has previously been house trained, or for a dog that has had a reasonable amount of house training and is still having accidents. Sudden house soiling is often caused by something physical, usually either a urinary tract infection or a problem with the kidneys. These can be painful and if your dog has one he can’t help what he is doing.
I once temp fostered a little dog that had been returned to a rescue due to house soiling. Almost immediately after we walked into my house we had our first problem. The dog was just standing there, and it was like the urine just fell out of him. He was helpless. I immediately called the rescue and they arranged a veterinary checkup. The dog went on antibiotics and in just a few days was completely fine in the house and able to be placed in a new home. Your dog may be suffering an illness if she suddenly starts peeing in the house. Please take her to a vet. If everything is clear, we will work through it. But you need to be sure.
Another common reason I will recommend a vet check is for aggression, especially if the dog has previously shown no signs. Nobody is chipper when they don’t feel good. We can all be a little grumpy when we are in pain. If your previously sweet dog is suddenly growling or even biting, a vet check is in order. If it’s physical, even if I can convince the dog not to bite you, I am not fixing anything. And wouldn’t you be sad if something treatable that was causing your dog to suffer was left untreated because we taught your dog to grin and bear it?
There are times that signs of trouble are there and families don’t know what to look for. But when a behavior has truly just started all of a sudden, I want my clients to have a vet check done. If it isn’t physical, then we can get to work on changing the behavior. Give Fido the benefit of the doubt if he does something out of character and go see his veterinarian!