Good dog trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your veterinary practice

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Good dog trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your veterinary practice 

Produced by the Advanced Behavior Course at the North American Veterinary Conference, Post Graduate Institute (NAVC PGI), 20041 


The purpose of this brief article is to demonstrate the value of identifying “good dog trainers” and incorporating this knowledge into your veterinary practice. The following recommendations represent a consensus document compiled by the authors as one of the final projects in the Advanced Applied Clinical Behavioral Medicine course at the 2004 NAVC PGI. Many of the authors are now using these recommendations in their practices in ways that have increased their productivity and altered the way they now practice medicine.

 Win-win-win situation for pets, clients, and veterinary staff

Behavior exhibited by patients affects all aspects of the veterinary experience. Pets who exhibit good, basic manners can be encouraged to use those manners to have a more comfortable veterinary experience. The enhanced comfort of any patient affects the care that they receive, the efficiency with which the staff can do their jobs, the stress and distress levels of other patients, and practice economics.  The recommendations in this article are equally applicable to cats and dogs, but most people still do not think about training cats and engaging in early social exposure that will make cats less fractious (Seksel, 2001).

 Training is a quality of life issue for pets, and it affects your bottom line 

1. Calm, well-behaved patients are a pleasure to see.  Whether these pets are at your practice for a wellness

check-up or because they are ill, cats and dogs who have good manners and who are comfortable in a veterinary setting are those whom you look forward to seeing.

2. Examination of a cat or a dog who sits and looks at you when requested saves time and decreases the stress of the veterinary experience for all staff, patients, and clients.

3. Patients who are well mannered are easy to take to the vet and so will be brought in for evaluation more often.  In addition to the obvious economic benefits for the practice, the health benefits to the pet are clear: any illness will be recognized and treated earlier, with a better prognosis.

4. Pets who are well behaved are those with whom clients do not have to struggle. If clients must struggle with their pets, or if pets struggle during veterinary exams, clients worry that the struggle is hurting their pets. If clients fear that a veterinary visit physically or psychologically damages their pet, they will wait to have the pet seen. This wait may be injurious to the pet’s physical health. Well-behaved pets will be brought in as a first choice, not a last.

5. If pets are seen earlier, they are diagnosed earlier, which saves lives. Clients are also less willing to forgo

E. What training tools—in addition to their brains—do the dog trainers use?

1. Good tools promote calm and relaxed behavior, and efficient learning that is in the best interests of the dog and the dog-human team. Good tools include:

a) small, bite-sized treats (check for food allergies first!!!)

b) leashes

c) head collars

d) flat collars

e) harnesses

f) praise

g) toys (as a reinforcer of good behavior)

2. Tools that should be avoided because they increase fear and anxiety:

a) shock collars / electric collars / e-collars / static collars

b) prong collars

c) “correction” collars

d) choke collars, choke chains (sometimes euphemistically referred to as training collars)

3. Some tools can be problematic or become problematic when used incorrectly, but you might not think so at the outset. Examples include:

Dog on retractable lead! Tundra Comics

a) Flexi leads: Flexi leads are not training tools. If the dog does not know how to walk nicely on a lead, he will not learn using a Flexi lead alone.  Also, Flexi leads allow dogs to explore without overt supervision and without the attention of the client. Thus, the dog can become a victim of another dog, a bicycle, or a car, or the dog may injure someone that he or she trips with the lead when turning a corner or lunging through crowds.  Finally, the handle of these flexible leashes is difficult to impossible to use well if you are elderly, young, have small hands, or have arthritis.  If this handle is pulled from the clients hands it can become an airborne weapon and do damage to the dog or to another individual.


Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2006) 1, 47-52

Head Collars, Are They Really Aversive? Are they dangerous to dogs? 

How to Select a Dog Trainer Guide for Veterinarians

Injuries, behavioral problems linked to retractable leashes

Additional References:

ABTC Statement on Ethical Dog Training

 As part of our ongoing work to promote humane practice in the training and behaviour therapy of animals we have prepared a statement detailing our position on ethical dog training.

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