When a veterinarian and a dog trainer get together, what do you think they talk about? (Hint, the #1 topic is probably "#1" and "#2.")
I had the pleasure of sitting down with friend and veterinarian Kaarin Vekman, DVM, to play a little game we called, "Whom should you call first: your vet or a trainer?" As a trainer, I get a lot of questions about topics that should really be directed to a vet. Likewise, vets are often asked behavior questions that are more in a trainer's territory. Then there are other cases where vets and trainers can work together to tackle a dog's issue from both medical and behavioral angles. And so when your dog is having a problem, it can be difficult to know where to start.
Our game covers issues such as house training, separation anxiety, puppy vaccinations, nutrition, aggression, and nail trims. Though we were both involved in creating the questions, we didn't discuss our answers ahead of time.
This game was also a good test for Dr. Vekman and me. Prior to playing the game, I was worried we would have widely differing points of view and possibly end our friendship over the contentious "puppy vaccination" topic. And while we do look at the same issue from different angles, it turns out these differences do not lead to confusion or conflict; rather, educating owners from both a medical and behavioral perspective can give them a more well-rounded understanding of their dogs' conditions.
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an accomplished author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY. Her books, articles, and videos cover everything from house-training to leash aggression.