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Why Owners Drive Veterinarians Crazy But Not Me

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Here’s why I love what I do.

I took courses at the The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and I regularly attend veterinary conferences (particularly AVSAB and AVMA), but I am not a veterinarian. My Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare was housed at The University of Edinburgh’s Vet School, and many of our instructors were veterinarians, but that’s not my training or profession.

Which is to say, I have no idea what drives veterinarians bonkers and what it’s like to have the “pleasure” of developing client-related pet peeves over the years.

This month, Dr. Andy Roark (Twitter / Facebook) opened up the veterinarian pet peeve jar in a VetStreet Video, ‘Top 5 Ways to Drive Your Vet Crazy.’ What’s on the list? I’ll give you a 5 seconds to contemplate…

Contemplate 1

Contemplate 2

Contemplate 3

Contemplate 4

Contemplate 5

How To Drive Your Vet Crazy

#5 No matter what, it’s an emergency.

#4 The best time to be seen is closing time.

#3 No matter what, answer your phone.

#2 Have the doctor talk to everyone you know.

#1 Don’t do anything the vet recommends… and tell him.

I get the feeling that many professions, from baristas to human doctors, can commiserate with the veterinarian pet-peeve list.

Looking at this list, I was relieved. My experiences with companion dog owners differs substantially. The first and most obvious reason for this is that visits with me have nothing to do with sickness or check-ups. There is no possibility of detecting cancer when you sign up to participate in a dog behavior study. Rather, in our studies, your dog will get to be a dog, we will watch him being a dog, and he will get some sort of thank you for being a dog (sometimes in the form of a dog toy or a “graduation” certificate, depending on the dog lab).

Dog owners who sign up for dog behavior studies are willing and eager, and their participation is totally their decision. Maybe they see it as a new experience they can share with their dog, maybe they’re interested in what this field of research is all about and want to contribute, or maybe they want to learn more about their own dog.

What I treasure about what I do is getting to see dogs just being dogs. From watching dogs and their people frolic in all their unique glory (i.e., Project Play With Your Dog), to investigating whether the average dog notices differences in food quantity based on smell alone (study summarized here), dogs are remarkable beings in their own right.

Thanks to all the dog owners who make this research possible, and here’s to decreasing veterinarians’ pet peeve lists. They deserve it.


Photo: Boy in Veterinarian’s Office, The Saturday Evening Post, Cliff, Creative Commons Flickr

Additional Reading
Hecht, J. 2013. Drop Outs and Bloopers: Behind the Scenes of Canine Science. Scientific American
Hecht, J. 2012. How Do You Play with Your Dog? Scientific American
Todd, Z. 2014. Can Dogs Smell Quantity of Food? Companion Animal Psychology

Julie Hecht About the Author: Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher, science writer, and PhD student at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She would really like to meet your dog. Follow on Twitter @DogSpies.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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