Helping to make the perfect match: Pet selection counseling


How you can play a vital role in helping owners make the right choice and ensure a lifelong bond.

Guess who got the rose. (Shutterstock)The music swells, stomachs churn as hearts hang on the edge. Who will he pick? No, this isn't an episode of The Bachelor. We're talking about the right pet finding the right owner to become happy, lifelong companions.

But then reality hits. The owner expected a chill dog to hang out with, not this hyper pooch that won't stop wiggling and squiggling and running around. Or the owner can't figure out why her new kitten keeps having accidents around the house. If things don't turn around for our newly united pair, relinquishment of the relationship might result-the unhappiest ending of all.

You can prevent this scenario by adding pet selection counseling services to your veterinary practice. At a recent CVC, Debbie Martin, LVT, VTS (behavior), said this is one of the best ways you can prevent behavior problems in your patients in the first place.

The danger of good intentions

A tip Martin got from someone who worked at a shelter-make sure owners get a pet that matches their current lifestyle. They may want to get a pet because they want to be more active-“I'll start running with my new pet!” But eventually we tend to fall into our old habits and you end up with a mismatch.

At Martin's practice, the first step is to have the potential owner fill out a pet selection form, available on her practice's website. (Feel free to use this form in your practice, Martin says.) Then you can schedule a counseling appointment to discuss finding just the right pet. Make sure to carefully review the form before the appointment.

Things to discuss during the appointment:

  • Listen to what types of breeds the client is leaning toward. Take the time to point out the pros and cons of the match.

  • Based on the responses on the pet selection form, recommend breeds that might be a better fit-listing the pros and cons of these breeds as well.

  • Ask what age of pet they'd like to adopt. “If they say as young as possible, you will need to educate them on the appropriate time the pet should be taken away from the litter. Too soon causes lots of behavior issues,” Martin says.

  • If they have had a pet in the past but it's been a while, open their minds to new ideas like different training techniques.

  • Get the owner planning ahead-explain that bigger dogs will be more expensive over time (e.g. food, parasite preventives), decide what activity level they want from the pet, ask if they anticipate any big changes in the next few years (e.g. moving, starting a family).

Martin says the pet selection counseling appointment can be one-on-one or you could consider offering periodic group sessions. If you promote on social media or in your enewsletter or elsewhere that on a certain date you're going to do a session on pet selection counseling, if someone has been thinking about getting a pet, they can come and learn. In these group sessions, you can cover more general topics such as feeding, training and how much time the owners will have to dedicate to doing certain activities with their dogs.

A benefit of these counseling sessions-whether one-on-one or in a group setting-is that they bond the client to your clinic as well, so you can be there to help ensure the owner and pet get that happily ever after.

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