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Veterinarian Technician July 2013 (Vol 34, No 7)

Inside Behavior: Choosing a Qualified Dog Trainer for Your Veterinary Hospital: a Standard-of-Care Guide for Trainers

by Julie K. Shaw, KPA-CTP, RVT, VTS (Behavior)

    The companion article “Inside Behavior: Choosing a Qualified Dog Trainer for Your Hospital: How to Assess a Dog Trainer” discusses how to assess a trainer by attending his or her classes. This article is a standard-of-care guide that trainers should adhere to when working with veterinary professionals.

    Laura Monaco Torelli is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and works closely with veterinary professionals. She recommends that veterinary professions seek trainers who adhere to the following standards.1

    Behave professionally.

    This guideline refers to commonsense decisions and behaviors: arrive on time, be prepared, and dress appropriately and professionally.

    Treat clients respectfully.

    Clients who have been referred to a trainer by a veterinary professional are a “gift” and should always be treated with the utmost respect, empathy, and compassion. Client information should be confidential. Trainers should not joke about or criticize clients when communicating with colleagues or others privately or publicly (e.g., on social media).

    Keep the dialogue safe and open with clients.

    Earning a client’s trust is a privilege. When a client asks a trainer questions, it indicates that the client is committed to the management and training steps that have been outlined. Trainers should create a safe communication environment for clients with questions. Clients should be validated for asking questions and allowed to speak freely. Trainers should strive to answer all questions that fall within the boundaries of a trainer’s role (i.e., questions that are training or management related). For questions that fall outside a trainer’s role, trainers should refer clients to the appropriate veterinary professional.

    Know which questions to refer to a veterinarian.

    Clients sometimes ask questions that fall outside the scope of my practice. Examples include questions regarding (1) dosages or adverse effects of medications, (2) medical conditions, or (3) dietary issues. Regardless of whether a pet has already received a diagnosis from a veterinarian, these types of questions must be referred to a veterinarian. Trainers can validate clients for asking these questions, recommend how to get the answers, and even facilitate the communication process between clients and veterinary professionals.

    Keep the dialogue safe and open with veterinary professionals.

    Veterinary professionals who refer clients to trainers are precious resources. Trainers should strive to maintain communication with veterinary professionals so that collaboration can occur and clients and their pets can succeed. It is imperative that trainers follow up with a client’s veterinary technician or veterinarian regardless of whether the client was referred to the trainer. Trainers should be advocates for clients and pets.

    Follow up with clients.

    Trainers should find out how their clients are progressing in their training plans and goals. This is especially important when working with clients on behavior-disorder cases. Simply “touching base” with a client between appointments can make the difference between success and failure. Perhaps a client is struggling with part of the training plan or has found that the time commitment is more than he or she can handle. This information gives trainers an opportunity to adjust the training or behavior-modification plan (with the veterinarian’s input) and to help clients move forward.

    Trainers should establish and follow a protocol for interactions with clients and referral sources. Best practices are only useful if they are practiced. It is essential to teach the protocol and consistent communication procedures to every trainer or staff member who may interface with clients and referral sources. Trainers should also create a procedure for communication between clients and veterinary professionals. Trainers should determine how often to submit assessments and follow-up reports for clients’ veterinary records. Trainers convey their professionalism and commitment through consistent protocols.

    Keep records.

    Trainers should maintain accurate, detailed records of all interactions with clients and referral sources. There are many reasons for documenting training sessions and correspondence with clients. A system helps trainers keep the details clear and allows important information to be shared with a client’s veterinary behavior team. A strong recordkeeping system also provides a permanent account of communications, actions, and events if a dog bite or other situation calls into question a trainer’s liability regarding work with a client.

    Resources

    Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (AVBT)

    American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB)
    The ACVB is a professional organization of veterinarians who are board certified in the specialty of veterinary behavior. If ACVB members are not located nearby, many offer phone consultations to referring veterinarians.

    American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)
    The AVSAB promotes and supports veterinarians who treat their patients’ behavioral problems.

    Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs)
    CAABs often work in partnership with referring veterinarians and veterinary behaviorists.

    Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT)

    References »

    NEXT: Tech Tips (July 2013)

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