The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) outlines the following guidelines on the role and limitations of nonspecialized technicians, dog trainers, and lay personnel with respect to providing behavior-related medicine to the public. In general, nonveterinary professionals or lay persons should not be making decisions about or treating behavior problems. Clients should be referred to their veterinarian, who can decide whether a referral to a behaviorist is needed. General tasks that fall under the purview of dog trainers include general training of dogs, including that aimed at preventing behavior problems, treatment of a problem in a specific situation, and recognition of problems that require referral because humans and other animals are at risk for injury. Animals with refractory problems should be referred. Dog trainers should be able to address an acute problem with appropriate behavior modification. Examples are dogs barking at one another in class and dogs showing fear of someone in the room. If problems are ongoing in the home, dog trainers should refer clients to veterinarians. In a veterinary practice, lay staff can address problems that occur only in the veterinary clinic, with the intent of training the dog, owner, or other staff on how to make the dog more comfortable and tractable. Lay trainers can assist veterinarians with behavior modification techniques prescribed by veterinarians. The ACVB considers it inappropriate for lay personnel to diagnose and treat behavior disorders independent of a veterinarian: "We should not encourage the practice of medicine without a license."

COMMENTARY: After the diagnosis and treatment plan is made for a patient with behavior issues by a veterinarian, having a trainer help the owner implement the prescribed program can be one of the keys to success. It is important to recognize the limitations of a trainer with the management of behavior cases in the veterinary practice setting, and this article helps to clarify that.

The role and limitations of trainers in behavior treatment and therapy. Luescher AU, Flannigan G, Frank D, Mertens P. J VET BEHAV 2:26-27, 2007.