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Help owners pick pets and tackle behavior problems early with profitable pre-adoption and soon-after-adoption counseling.

A homeowners' association once told a client with a dog who lunged at people that she'd need to move if she didn't get rid of her pet, says Dr. Lisa Radosta, DACVB, owner of Florida Veterinary Behavior Service in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. You may have similar clients, and you'd prefer to head off behavior problems before they get to this point. If you offer pre-adoption or soon-after-adoption counseling and behavior training, you can.

Your team can help clients choose the right breed to match their personalities and circumstances, or help get a puppy or kitten's training started early and done right. It'll take CE, proactive marketing, and the right presentation to clients, Dr. Radosta says, but your efforts will translate into happier, loyal clients—who can't get this information anywhere else. Another bonus? You'll have better-behaved patients in the exam room. And you'll charge for this service like any other type of care, adding to your repertoire of profitable services.

Get the facts, get the word out

If you didn't get it in school, behavior CE is available at most major conferences, and better and more textbooks on the subject are coming out all the time, Dr. Radosta says. (Check out "Look online" at right.) Don't forget to include your team in training so they can ask clients appropriate questions before you show up and deliver your expert advice.

If you're ready to offer pre-adoption and behavior counseling, make sure every client knows about it. Dr. Radosta lists the service in her brochures, and she recommends that referring veterinarians put up posters in the waiting room and in exam rooms that say, "Are you thinking of getting a new pet? We can help."

"We can't just wait for clients to come to us," Dr. Radosta says. "We need to be proactive."

Dr. Radosta also developed pricing for the service before she started. She suggests you base it on what you charge for your time for other kinds of consultation. And be sure to price initial pre-adoption counseling appointments, behavior training appointments, and follow-up consultations separately, Dr. Radosta says.

Add behavior to your prevention arsenal

When you see that recently adopted puppy or kitten at 8 weeks, talk about any behavior issues the pet owner is struggling with and warn him or her about other problems that could arise. Then offer advice about how to resolve the problem. After that, Dr. Radosta says, follow-up is key. "When you see clients again you'll check in to see whether they've been following the advice, how it has worked, and whether new behavior problems have come up," she says.

Even when clients don't come to you with behavior issues, you may discover that certain patients could benefit from your knowledge—as long as you approach the owners the right way.

"I once worked with a little 10-week-old spaniel that was snapping and fearful. The owners' first response was, 'My puppy doesn't need behavior training. She doesn't do that at home,'" Dr. Radosta says. "This kind of response shows that you need to be sensitive about how you raise concerns. I said, 'I know she doesn't do this at home, but we want to treat her here for the next 18 years. Here are the things I want you to work on.' You've got to be kind but also honest."

Join your colleagues at CVC West, Oct. 20 to 23 in San Diego, for a variety of behavior seminars as well as a canine behavior wet lab Oct. 21. Visit cvcwest.com for more details.

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