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Sample script: Talk to pet owners about behavior issues


Be sure to address pets' troubling behaviors.

Clients don't always think to bring up behavior problems during wellness visits, mainly because they don't perceive their pets' behaviors as problematic. Or worse, they don't think there's anything that can be done to stop the growling, nipping, or house soiling. It's that kind of mentality that leads clients to relinquish their pets, says Dr. J.C. Burcham, associate, from Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan.

As pet advocates, it's the team's job to talk to owners about their pets' behaviors—and just as important, to listen. Here's a script you can use when checking in clients to get the discussion going.

You: Have you noticed any changes in Lacey's behavior since your last visit? Any acts of destruction? Does she have excessive barking or energy or show signs of aggression?

Client: Who? My Lacey? She's all bark but no bite. The worst she'll do is growl if I get near her food bowl.

You: Does she do this every time and to everyone in your house?

Client: Yeah, but she'd never hurt anyone.

You: This is an important issue we need to address. I'm going to send a short behavior evaluation form with you. I'd like you to fill it out and return it within the next week.

Client: I don't think that's necessary. It's not a problem. She's just growling. That's what dogs do.

You: I understand that Lacey's behavior doesn't seem like a problem, but unaddressed, so-called small behavior problems can spiral into many serious issues. We want to address this behavior while Lacey is only growling, not biting. You could fill out the form now or e-mail me your answers later if that's easier. Or I can call you in a week to discuss your answers. What works best for you?

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