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Compendium September 2009 (Vol 31, No 9)

Reading Room — First Steps With Puppies and Kittens A Practice — Team Approach to Behavior

    Title: First Steps With Puppies and Kittens: A Practice-Team Approach to Behavior

    Author: Linda M. White

    Publisher: American Animal Hospital Association Press

    Year: 2008

    Pages: 211

    ISBN: 978-1-58326-101-9

    This practical book will help veterinarians realize the goal of a full-service practice that addresses every aspect of pet health and well-being.

    This book offers the veterinary health care team a pragmatic approach to behavior and training issues in puppies and kittens—in the author's words, addressing "behavioral needs before they become behavior problems." It does not cover behavior theories but rather draws on the author's 30 years of training experience to offer practical advice and methods for achieving cooperation and harmony between owner and pet.

    Because they know that they are the primary source of advice concerning all aspects of pet ownership, most veterinarians provide information about feeding, care, and training during the initial puppy or kitten visit. Unfortunately, owners frequently feel overwhelmed, retaining only a portion of the instructions, and many practices are too busy to implement a comprehensive, ongoing training program. This book explains how such a program can be developed. It takes the reader step by step through the process and describes how to involve every member of the health care team in the effort. It also comes with a companion CD containing forms and instructional materials that can be customized and printed out to give to owners.

    The book begins with a discussion of the "business side" of training, addressing financial considerations and the roles of various members of the health care team. The author describes how the veterinary team can become "patient behavior advocates" using methods such as operant and associative conditioning and verbal, target, and clicker training. Concepts include reinforcement and punishment, extinction, cure, reward, shaping, and counterconditioning. Special emphasis is given to socialization and desensitization. This is followed by a detailed section on puppy development that covers basic commands (e.g., come, down, sit, stay) and how to handle undesirable behaviors such as barking, biting, and "counter surfing." The next chapter similarly covers kitten development and behavior, including common problems like scratching, biting, and litterbox issues. These chapters, which establish the fundamentals of the training program, are followed by six appendixes with samples of handouts dealing with every issue raised in the book.

    The material is presented in brief, discrete sections, highlighted by a wealth of useful lists. Each training exercise is broken down into specific, detailed steps tailored to the particular behavior in question. Equipment is described as well, including collars, leashes, harnesses, and training aids.

    This practical book will help veterinarians realize the goal of a full-service practice that addresses every aspect of pet health and well-being. By viewing the pet and owner-family as a whole, rather than individuals, it should help veterinarians promote the human-animal bond to enable owners to work with their pets in the animals' best interests, as well as help establish behaviors that will lead to less stressful office visits and more practice loyalty.

    Written by Patricia L. Van Horn, a freelance writer in Long Branch, New Jersey.

    To Learn More

    For further information about this book or to order a copy, visit aahanet.org.

    Downloadable PDF

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