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Become a Pet-Centered Practice

What is the Third Wave in the Veterinary Profession?

A "Pet-Centered" Practice and Behavior Center

Contributed by Michael Haas, DVM, AVH Veterinary Group, Bangor Pennsylvania,
Animal Behavior Network (ABN) Veterinary Member since 2005, Susan Tripp, Editor


1st  Wave = Scientific Method / Accident & Illness

2nd Wave = Preventive Care / Client Centered

3rd Wave =  Bond Centered / Pet-Centered


The first wave in veterinary medicine 100 years ago was the introduction of Scientific Method, what Dr. Tripp calls, Vet Centered. 


The second wave about 25 years ago was adding Client Service (Client Centered) and those that adopted it prospered. 


The third wave is proposed to be looking at the vet visit from the pet’s point of view.  Using the behavior strategies in this lecture will result in a “Pet Centered Practice” by preventing Veterinary Phobia in pets. 


 Instead learn to bond them to your staff and location while still providing the highest level of Client Service and Veterinary Medicine. Those that adopt this will prosper!


Have you ever spent a moment imagining what our patients experience when they visit any of our facilities. What are they thinking?  What are they feeling? 

We focus our efforts on their physical pain in order to make a diagnosis and enact a proper treatment plan, but how much consideration do we give to the emotional aspects of our patients’ visit? With today’s pell-mell pace of practice it’s easy to lose sensitivity to how the patient may be viewing his visit as we go about our task of diagnosing and treating the physical problems. 

Forty years ago a veterinarian had to do little more than put up a shingle and he was inundated with business. Practices were generally small and somewhat homey places. A bond between the practitioner, the client and their pet was easily maintained.  In fact, our profession and our practitioners were grounded in that relationship to such an extent that no label such as “human animal bond” was necessary or utilized - it was taken for granted. Everyone just assumed that Doc loves animals. In fact, no assumption need be made.

The client had a greater exposure to the veterinarian and the pet owner could intuitively experience Doc’s spirit and compassion. Imagine (or remember) what it was like to run a practice when there was little overhead in equipment, no O.S.H.A. regulations, labor laws were vague and required little attention, inventory management was simple and straightforward, and so on ad infinitum. A veterinarian really could focus on the patient! 

The veterinary facility was a small operation, the support staff had fewer duties and the veterinarian, with a paucity of weapons in his armamentarium with which to fight disease, relied more on bed-side manner and utilized a more tactile approach in his administrations.

Knowledge and technology have exploded in the ensuing decades and as 21st century veterinary physicians we now have access to oceans of information and incredible tools to aid in patient care. The “mixed animal” practitioner is a doomed species, soon to be seen, if not already, as a “jack of all trades, master of none.”  In fact, the terms “small animal” and “large animal” veterinarian have been pretty much relegated to the dustbin of yesterday’s lexicon. Specialists have emerged in all disciplines, and what’s more, their habitation is no longer limited to the few veterinary universities. 

Compassion Deficit?

A friend of a friend is a specialist in ophthalmology in the New York area. When one of this fellow clients asks him about a non-ophthalmologic veterinary problem during the visit, he holds up his hands and declares, “If it’s more than an inch from the eye, I don’t touch it.” His interests are scientific and technical, his talents are formidable and specific, his patients benefit greatly from his care and I would not like to operate my general practice without the expertise of him and his ilk to rely upon.

We can offer our patients so much more in effective medical and surgical care than our colleagues of decades past but this progress has come at a cost.

But when I compare this empirical, detached attitude, so common today, with the empathy of our predecessors, I become a bit nostalgic. How much of this detached aloofness has now set seed even in today’s general practices? 

 Evolving Veterinary Care

These issues were on my mind last August when I attended the PVMA meeting in Hershey. I went specifically for three days of lectures on behavior by Rolan Tripp, DVM, founder of www.AnimalBehavior.Net. You may have seen some of Dr. Tripp’s published works or caught him on Animal Planet.

The primary focus of Dr. Tripp's lectures is how to build behavior care into the general practice.

Rolan is an extremely engaging speaker. The first lectures, as evidenced by a hand count, were attended mostly by technicians and assistants. As the sessions went on, word got out – each succeeding lecture brought more and more people until, by the end of the second day, the room was SRO. As Rolan spoke, what I heard beneath the advertised topic was a unique practice approach.

If the “old days” featured the “vaccine practice,” and the second wave during the 1990’s saw our profession move toward the “client focused practice” or "bond focused practice”  with separate dog and cat reception areas, coffee in the waiting room, etc., where the progressive practice is moving in the 21st century is toward what Tripp coined as the “the third wave” or “the pet-centered practice.”

The crux of this concept is the enhancement of the pet's experience and our clients’ improved relationships with their pets. 

Yes, of course we should be addressing behavioral issues involving our patients, but more than that it is incumbent upon us to set the proper example by engaging them in the most positive ways while they visit and reside in our facilities. 

Rolan Tripp, D.V.M. obtained his veterinary degree from U. C., Davis in 1979 after attaining an undergraduate degree in music. His minor in college was in philosophy with a special focus on ethics and logic. His interest in animal behavior developed after discovering that behavior is the most common concern for pet owners, and the most common cause of euthanasia in pets.  Dr. Tripp would approach the subject of developing the pet-centered practice detailing the roles of each member of the veterinary staff.  

Receptionists would learn how to instruct clients on the telephone to prepare for their visit so as to reduce the stress on their pets and even make the experience enjoyable.  They would also learn behavior techniques that could be utilized to get dogs to sit during the weigh-in and to manage barking or confrontations between pets in the reception area

The kennel team will learn how to reduce stress in hospitalized patients, feeding techniques that keep dogs engaged and how to recognize behavior cues that indicate pain or stress, as well as techniques for safe animal handling.

Veterinarians, technicians and assistants would learn how to make the best first impression with the pet. Distraction techniques for unpleasant procedures and restraint procedure for tame, fractious and downright wild patients would be addressed. 

We would also learn to recognize all-important body-language signals from our patients – submissive, fearful and aggressive postures. As long-time practitioners we read these messages almost instinctively, but how well do we teach our staff to know what the patient is communicating? 

The veterinary practice could integrate puppy kindergarten and adult behavior classes in the hospital, and Dr. Tripp gave the secrets to improve the classes if you already offer them.

Dr. Tripp has also developed a system that allows the general practitioner to incorporate behavior medicine into the practice, or to augment a program that is already in place, by utilizing an on-line consultation and library system (

The veterinarian can become involved as much or as little as she likes while solving clients’ behavioral concerns. 

I see such a meeting as extremely rewarding and full of immediately applicable knowledge and techniques. I attended the PVMA meeting with two of our staff members and we put some new procedures into place immediately and saw very positive results right away.

Our staff loves this approach and they truly get greater enjoyment from the work day. Clients are pleased when they see their pet actually enjoy the visit rather than responding to doctor and staff member with fear.   

I can’t say that we no longer have frightened patients but I can tell you that we have won over many that in the past would have put us on their fecal roster. A group meeting would also be an opportunity for our staffs to get together and exchange experiences, ideas and war stories.

The event itself would be a morale builder even beyond the excitement that accompanies the integration of newly acquired applicable behavior knowledge to better our relationships with our personal pets at home and the pets that visit our practices.


When clients understand their pets' behavior, they are more satisfied with the results of behavior modification.

Veterinarians wanting their clients to benefit from The Third Wave or seeking more information, may call a Veterinary Behavior Technician or Dr. Rolan Tripp at 1-800-372-3706. The Third Wave is a veterinary participation program that also implements Dr. Tripp's Behavior Manual, Pet Perception Management Program into the practice.

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