with any other referral person,
the best approach is word of mouth. Ask a DVM colleague who they use. If this doesn’t work, you can see
who advertises in the yellow pages
for your area. Notify your staff
you are looking for a referral trainer
and behaviorist, so that if an existing
client makes a comment to a member
of your staff, you can follow-up
and get a client evaluation. Still
another option is to call the local
dog clubs, pet stores, rescue groups,
or AKC show organizer to request
a list of names.
For best results,
set up a personal interview, or
at least a phone interview with
any person you plan to use as a
referral for your clients. Ask
the person to bring (or send) copies
of any credentials that are pertinent. The highest credential is Board
Certification by the American
College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
Certification of the
Animal Behavior Society.
Other academic credentials may also
apply, including training in human
psychology since there is significant
terminology and basic concept overlap.
that apply include continuing education
such as behavior seminars provided
or attended within the last several
years. Related books or articles
read or published give an indication
of a person’s interest and school
of thought, as does association
memberships, including any leadership
roles. If the person would be providing
obedience training, you should ask
about any obedience trials or titles
A referral person
should be someone with whom you
and your staff can easily communicate
and relate. One way to determine
this is to ask your top prospect
to deliver a luncheon seminar to
you and your staff. If you find
it difficult to understand and relate
with this person, it is likely your
clients will react similarly. Any
information given by someone disliked
is likely to be discounted, and
the desired results will not materialize.
A luncheon seminar
for your team is the first
step in determining the behavioral
philosophy of a potential trainer
affiliate. In addition to bringing
a demo dog, consider asking the
person to work with a pet from your
kennel and demonstrate beginner
concepts. During the demonstration
in addition to technique, watch
for relaxed body language around
pets, and the animal’s response
to the interaction. Look for
positive, reward based methods.
Ask about what behavior
products they recommend to obtain
further insight to school of thought.
Electric shock collars have largely
been replaced by citronella scent
collars. Spiked choke collars have
essentially been replaced by head
halters. Look for a reward based
focus instead of extensive use of
collar corrections and punishments.
A good question is, “What is the
most severe physical correction
you have ever had to use?” Another
useful question is, “Please give
an example of a case where you were
not successful, and how you left
the situation.” Look for honesty,
and a willingness to refer.
Ask for behavior handouts,
or ask the person to review those
you currently use. If there is
a difference in philosophy, ask
more questions. It may be time
to part ways, or it might be time
to challenge your own old habits
to pursue approaches that make the
most sense. In either case, strive
for some consensus on the bigger
issues so clients are not confused.
Remember to ask for
recommendations or letters of reference.
These letters might include current
or former instructors, colleagues,
breeders, or satisfied clients.
If there are other veterinarians
who refer, ask how many veterinary
referrals have been handled, and
for any letters of recommendation
One of the most important
questions to ask is how long they
have been in business providing
this training or behavioral service.
If the business includes other trainers,
inquire how many other trainers,
and ask about their qualifications.
This may be a benefit since it provides
greater flexibility to your clients
to have multiple people able to
support your clients. Other questions
might include the approximate hours
spent doing paid training per week,
or the number of cases handled per
month or year.
In most cases, money
does not exchange hands between
the practice and a referral trainer
or behaviorist. Because of this
there is no basis to require a standard
of dress, language and behavior.
This makes it even more important
that the person perform in a professional
manner of their own accord. This
person is an extension of your practice,
and your reputation can be influenced
positively or negatively.
Depending on your
interest in behavior, it may or
may not make sense to collect data
on individual cases. However, it
is recommended that some type of
referral report be returned to the
referring practitioner for inclusion
in the medical record. Ideally
you would receive monthly or yearly
reports on the number of referrals
and types of problems referred from
Is this person willing
to give a luncheon hospital seminar
two to four times each year for
your staff? Is this person willing
to communicate with staff when they
have problems or concerns? Is this
person willing to participate in
the training of the hospital staff
in other ways?
if this person’s behavioral practice
includes any special interest or
expertise. For example, they might
have a particular strength working
with puppies, cats or treating aggressive
animals.Depending on your
clientele, the ability to speak
a foreign language might be valuable.
information will be important.
What hours are available?
Is anyone available on nights and
weekends? Do they often leave town
for extended periods? How far will
sometimes uncomfortable, it is reasonable
to ask the trainer or behaviorist
about their fees. You don’t want
your team or yourself
to be surprised. Discover how they
structure fees; per session, per
pet, pet minute? Do they charge
for mileage or missed appointments.
onflicts of interest need not derail
if an agreement can be made. For
example discuss and agree if behavior
products or diets should be sold
directly or flow through the practice.
Remember that the
principal benefit to your business is keeping pets alive and bonding
them to their pet parents through education. When
improving relationships between
people and pets, everyone wins.