Pre-School for Dogs

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An interview with Amber Taylor, RVT.

Broad Ripple Animal Clinic & Wellness Center has staff members that are trained animal behaviorists to offer comprehensive behavior services. They’ve decided to do this for the same reasons that CattleDog Publishing and DrSophiaYin.com were born: seeing so many animals put to sleep because of behavioral problems rather than disease or injury. They created a school for dogs called Bark Tutor, where they work with owners and their pets to help them be successful. Last year, Dr. Yin had the pleasure of conversing with Amber Taylor, RVT and practice manager, about their puppy program. 

Dr. Yin:
Would you tell me about your puppy plan?  Do you give a discount on spaying and neutering for all puppies taking class at Bark Tutor?

Amber:
Our Responsible Pet Partnership (RPP) classes are a big hit with our clients. A puppy or kitten must enroll before 12 weeks of age, then has 3 one-on-one classes with one of our RVT's who has training with basic behavior and puppy socialization. We have a general outline for each class, but overall, clients with puppies learn about: socialization, basic commands (sit, down, wait), restraint and handling (for veterinary care), medical care (ear cleaning, bushing teeth, nail trims), potty training, crate training, and attention-seeking behaviors. The kitten course is similar but also includes litter box training and scratch prevention. After 3 classes ($45/class), the puppy or kitten receives a discount on spay or neuter.

Dr. Yin:
Can you elaborate and also let me know how this has affected your business and client loyalty?

Amber:
This has helped us to promote the importance of starting training early with puppies and kittens and also prepares them to continue on with training at Bark Tutor. It also helps in the rooms with the veterinarian as they can talk more about the medical needs of the puppy or kitten and allow the technician to discuss behavior needs.

Dr. Yin:
When did you start this program and why?

Amber:
I have been at BRAC for 6 years and it has been going the entire time I have been here and before, so at least 6 years. The program was started so that we could share the importance of behavior and working with pets early in life so that we could help promote the human/animal bond.

Dr. Yin:
How long is each technician behavior session? Can you give a breakdown on what is covered each time?

Amber:
Each individual session is 30-40 minutes, while the order of the items depends on the puppy or kitten, the following items are discussed during the 3 sessions:

Puppies and Kittens:
− Housetraining
− Socialization
− Sit, down, and wait commands–additional commands may be taught if puppy is older and more advanced in other areas such as house training
− Loose leash walking and how to achieve it
− Play biting and how to prevent it
− Appropriate toys/play including a discussion on dog park safety
− Handling of the feet, ears, mouth, as well as for grooming
− Low stress restraint for exams while standing with a technician restraining

For kittens additional topics include:
− Litter box training
− Scratch prevention

Dr. Yin:
What percentage of puppy/kitten owners purchase this?

Amber:
While I don't have exact numbers, this is a VERY popular program with our clients. The main area that we see benefit for the business is that after the last session we refer them to Bark Tutor for continued training and socialization so it helps tie our businesses together. Many clients enjoy this program, and if it has been a long time since their last puppy, or this is their first puppy, they can have a reliable source of information through the veterinary clinic.

Dr. Yin:
Can you give an example of any actual cases where you could tell that these sessions made a big difference?

Amber:
The #1 issue that we see progress with in RPP classes is play biting with puppies. Teaching the client about the attention seeking nature of play biting and what they can do INSTEAD of rewarding their dog with unintentional reinforcement of this behavior; such as redirecting with toys, going for a walk to get energy out, or utilizing a crate to stop behavior if not responding to other redirections.

Dr. Yin:
Doesn't this program of 3 sessions come with a discounted spay or neuter? Is that a strong motivating factor?

Amber:
The discount is the amount they pay for the 3 classes ($135 total). And I would say that this is an initial motivating factor to get clients to come in for the class. As they go through the classes, this is when I feel clients end up seeing the true value that these classes provide for their family and their puppies.

Dr. Yin:
How many puppies or kittens might enroll per month or might you see per week in this program?

Amber:
Last month we had 9 RPP appointments. And as you can imagine our “peak” time for these classes is after the holidays as many people give puppies as gifts.

Dr. Yin:
For those veterinarians out there who may think something like this is a waste of time, why is it beneficial for the hospital?

Amber:
These classes are beneficial to the clinic for 2 main reasons. The first being it gives the doctor more time to talk about the medical aspect of owning a puppy in their early appointments. Clients have many questions during puppy appointments and the doctor and staff must educate clients on heartworm prevention, vaccine schedules, pet insurance, the list goes on and on. By having separate puppy behavior appointments, the doctor can direct any immediate behavior concerns [during this appointment] and then focus on the exam and health requirements for the puppy or kitten [during the medical appointment]. 
Second, behavior issues are one of the number one reasons for people to give up their pets. If we take the time when the pets are young to educate clients on what it takes to have a dog that is good with the kids, goes on walks without pulling, and doesn’t jump on family and friends when they come over, then it is more likely that the pet and family will have a long happy life together. This is good for the hospital as we then also become the “go to” source of information for our clients (rather than pet stores or the internet) and develop a trusting bond that we care about more than just vaccines and medical problems. We care that the family and pet are living a long and healthy life together.

Dr. Yin:
How much does it cost, do you just charge for technician time, or how is the fee structured? Have you seen an effect on client satisfaction or retention?

Amber:
We charge $45 for each class for a total of $135 after 3 classes. This is NOT a program that brings in income to the clinic, but our owner and doctors are passionate that we need to address the behavior in the early stages of a pet's life so it is worth it to us. The “pay off” is that the pet is then hopefully coming to the clinic for years to come!

Programs like this may be essential in the future of veterinary medicine. Broad Ripple Clinic’s interest in behavior shows that, at least at this hospital, veterinary staff is beginning to recognize the importance of behavior in overall health and relationships with pets, and if more hospitals follow their lead, this will inevitably lead to a decrease in euthanasia due to behavioral issues.

To learn more about Broad Ripple Clinic and their behavior programs, visit:
www.bracpet.com. To check out their Bark Tutor School for dogs visit: www.barktutor.com

You can join this hospital in their interest in behavior and also gain some skills yourself by becoming certified in Low Stress Handling.  You’ll gain skills that will show clients and employers that you are knowledgeable in pet behavior, are up-to-date on new trends and skills, and are able to show compassion for your patients. Learn more about Low Stress Handling Certification for individuals or hospitals here: https://drsophiayin.com/low-stress-handling/certification

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One response to “Pre-School for Dogs

  1. we have a dog and he has bitten us when we are sitting or loving him abd we want to know how we can stop it

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