An in-house puppy school won't automatically make you the new Dog Whisperer, but offering training classes can make you money,
empower your staff, and create a bond with patients. The proof: Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, owner of Westwood Animal Hospital in
Westwood, Kan., and director of Animal Behavior Consultations.
Dr. Hunthausen's team has offered classes for years—although he hasn't necessarily handled this duty himself. In most cases,
he says, medical services provide a better return on a veterinarian's time. But why not employ a trainer or train a staff
member to teach?
Check the numbers: At Westwood Animal Hospital, six one-hour classes cost $110 a puppy. If a trainer makes $25 an hour, that's
a $730 profit for each eight-puppy class. Dr. Hunthausen has classes on weekends and weekday nights, when the clinic is typically
unused or underused.
To find a trainer, Dr. Hunthausen recommends you ask owners with well-behaved dogs for references, or visit the Association
of Pet Dog Trainers' Web site (
http://apdt.com/). Be sure to ask who will handle marketing and cleanup—your team or the trainer. And don't forget to ask a legal advisor
whether you need to carry insurance or whether that's the trainer's responsibility.
You can also train your team to teach classes and counsel patients on basics. "When the staff member shares something that
makes clients say, 'That's a great idea,' it builds his or her confidence," Dr. Hunthausen says.
He says staff members should attend pet training classes with a dog, then apprentice with trainers and read up on animal behavior.
Of course, staff members should always refer potential medical issues to you.