Dear Dr. Diane,
Occasionally, my 75-pound female lab, 8 years old, will have a minor injury. When I approach the sore area to investigate (for example, a small cut on the pad of her foot), she may growl at me as a warning that she hurts. What is the appropriate response to this? On one hand, I understand she is in pain and growling is the only way she has of letting me know this, but on the other hand, I feel she shouldn’t ever growl at me, her owner! Which is it? She doesn’t do this with the vet, which makes me think she can control her reactions when she wants to. I’d appreciate your insight.
Most of the dogs I have known have had the same reaction when I attempt to examine a minor injury. They are frightened, anxious and concerned for their well-being and they may also be in a certain amount of pain. They do not wish to be “bothered” or “threatened” in any way with your poking and prodding any more than you would appreciate someone examining an injury of your own. They realize that your examination may lead to a visit to the vet. They also recognize their influence over you and know that they can manipulate you much more readily than a stranger.
If you must examine the injury, calm your pet down by talking to her reassuringly and calmly. Gently muzzle her, stroke and pet her, and then tenderly examine the injured area. If you sense a serious enough injury, take her to the vet ASAP. Have the “professionals” discover and treat the problem.
Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.
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