Puppy parenting 101

Puppy parenting 101

Jul 01, 2007

Dr. Jeff Rothstein
After the death of two wonderful dogs over the past several years, my family decided to take a few years off from being dog owners. Of course, this made the cats happy. Well, we're back in action now, puppy classes and all. And our 4-month-old golden retriever is teaching me many things I had willingly forgotten—namely, how labor-intensive puppies are.

Sitting through puppy classes with the lay folks is interesting—I'm seeing everything through the pet owner's eyes. No doubt this experience will help me better relate to clients. Here are the lessons this experience has taught me:
  • Walk the talk. Most small animal veterinarians do the puppy and kitten talk several times a day, but I think I'll do it much more effectively with recent hands-on experience.
  • Be the expert. I don't have to be an animal trainer, but I should be current on training techniques and remember what's involved with raising a puppy.
  • Be empathetic. We really can make a difference in helping clients with pet behavior issues. It helps, I think, to stay in touch with what it means to be a pet owner. This helps us relate to and communicate with clients.
  • Sharpen the saw. Per Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Free Press, 2004), a worn-down saw doesn't do a good job, but a sharpened saw gets it done. For me, the puppy experience has been a form of CE. I'm much more in tune with all aspects of puppy parenthood, and that benefits my clients and me.

At a recent leadership conference, I spent some time with Dr. Jay Schuff. One of his specialty areas is reproductive medicine. He requires new doctors at his clinic to spend the night with a whelping dog so they can witness the birthing process firsthand. This allows them to see what the "mom" goes through and, of course, what our clients go through when their pets give birth. This is a great example of employing the four skills listed above. My guess is that when it comes to reproductive issues, clients will travel long distances to get this type of care.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein is president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.