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2 Year Old Rottweiler Now Hates the Vet

2 Year Old Rottweiler Now Hates the Vet

My almost 2-year-old Rottweiler now hates the vet. I don’t mean when we go there. I mean he only hates when they start poking him and try to muzzle him or give him meds. Anything that has to do with meds and shots and grabbing at him he gets aggressive.

He was fine until about 6 months ago. I am trying a new vet since the one we had just refused to work with him. I don’t know what to do since I can do anything, and he doesn’t blink an eye. I have kids and he loves them and cuddles with them but now this is scaring me.

What should I do to make this a better situation or get this aggression in check? I love my boy and he is an amazing dog and I have never seen aggression from him not even a growl until this.

Please help

Rachel – Gilberts Il

Hi Rachel,

On Paper Vs Reality

It’s possible on paper to get an already reactive, “hates the vet”, 2-year-old Rottweiler used to accepting being handled by complete strangers. However, I haven’t seen a lot of actual success stories in the real world.

In theory, if you were to simulate every aspect of being handled by the veterinarian multiple times every day and associate something positive, like a treat, the dog can start to get the idea that staying still is more rewarding then going “Cujo”. However, then there’s the no small matter of transferring that belief over to strangers handling in the same way. It’s hard to get a single volunteer, let alone multiple ones. I think multiple handlers and contexts would be required in order to say with any finality that the dog will no longer be a “hates the vet” dog, that can be handled trouble-free by any veterinarian.

Helpful Maybe for Others

For what it’s worth to others, (because it’s of no help whatsoever to you at this point) this is usually preventable.

A dog’s breeder and then the dog’s owner should start intrusive handling exercises with the pups right up until they’re 12 weeks of age. This would have to eventually be done by multiple people of different ages, genders, ethnicities etc. Then there should be periodic reminder sessions throughout the rest of the dog’s life. Ideally, it should begin and occur with frequency during that critical socialization period if it is to work at its best.

Here’s a link to my puppy socialization cheat sheet:

Puppy Socialization Cheat Sheet PDF

and to my Puppy Socialization e-book:

Puppy Socialization – What It Is and How to Do It

Even so, once a dog of your and similar breeds hits a certain age (18 months), and you have not raised them in a manner that is crystal clear to them that you are the teacher and they are the student, it isn’t surprising to find that they start deciding independently what they’re going to allow and not allow.

Exercise Caution When Handling an Unwell Dog

You seem confident that whereas your dog hates the vet because of the way he is being handled that you have no problem handling him similarly. I’m not sure that I share that confidence. I’ve seen a lot of these fellows change their mind about that when their owners actually start handling sore ears or paws. If the time comes that you need to provide actual medical care as opposed to cuddling, be cautious.

You may want to look at trying to have a veterinarian that does in-home appointments and give that a shot. This may, however, just trigger a different set of problems. A Rottweiler is likely to have his guard up simply because there’s a stranger on the property, let alone one that is sticking a thermometer up his butt.

John Wade

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2 thoughts on “2 Year Old Rottweiler Now Hates the Vet”

  1. Rachel, a vet refused to work with him? That is a terrible vet. There is nothing wrong with your pup. I have 3 Rotts and 2 of them have Vet anxiety. They never are aggressive around people that come over. They went through surgery at the vet and woke up drugged at that place so it’s kind of understandable. I like the recommendation of in home vet visit though. Vets that refuse to see certain breeds or are scared of them really makes me question why they chose the profession

    1. Hi Brian,

      I don’t know if it’s fair to say that the vet in question is terrible. Veterinarians shouldn’t be expected to take risks that could very well (and have) lead to career-ending injuries. If I were to spread a little blame around, it would be directed towards breeders and the veterinary and vet tech professions from the perspective of their lack of interest in taking an active, meaningful role in preventing this from being a problem in the first place.

      For well over 30 years, I have been trying to convince breeders, veterinary clinics, and veterinary and vet tech colleges to incorporate a greater understanding in their educational curriculum and workflows on the topic of critical imprinting so they could make an enormous dent in this sort of problem, as well as many other completely avoidable behavioral problems that impact the quality of life of so many dogs and their owners.

      Most puppies visit the veterinarian for the first time right smack dab in the middle of their fear imprint period. They get a thermometer up their bums, a needle, and a lot of handling in what, for many, is also a scary environment. Some silly veterinarians then tell their clients not to take their dogs anywhere until all the shots are complete, which means the full imprint period passes by, opening the door for anxiety and fear, and often aggression for not only vet visits but a wide range of otherwise avoidable triggering experiences.

      Here’s what I think should happen:

      1. Breeders should be highly regulated and be legally required to begin the critical imprinting starting at three weeks of age (See this book – ‘Socialize Your Puppy for Everything’ by John Wade (ebook)
      2. Breeders should be highly regulated and be legally required to teach their puppy buyers how to continue that imprinting right up until the window of opportunity closes, which, contrary to the plethora of misinformation that exists amongst those that think they understand critical imprint periods is 12 weeks of age.
      3. Veterinarians should be legally required when they provide a puppy with its first set of inoculations to:
      ⁃ Hold the puppy for at least ½ hour of observation to ensure there aren’t going to be any out-of-the-norm reactions.
      ⁃ While the puppy’s owners are waiting for the puppy to be released, the clinic should provide them with the opportunity to view a “How To Use Your Puppy’s 3 – 12 Week Critical Socialization Period To Prevent Fear & Anxiety” video and send them home with a workbook. (I’ve offered to help create a fun video in partnership with the veterinary and vet tech community and had zero luck.)
      ⁃ If the pup they examine for the first time shows even the slightest negative response during the examination, they should encourage the puppy’s owner to bring the pup in as frequently as possible, ideally, daily, throughout the imprint period, each time, just long enough for someone in their staff to give the pup a little fun attention and some treats.

      If we did the above, we would have far fewer dogs frightened by the veterinarians, or children, or fireworks and thunder, and the myriad of other triggers that impact the lives of dogs and those around them.

      – John Wade (

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