Written by Niki Tudge Copyright 2011

The liability risks open to dog training professionals stem from three areas; the trainer was negligent and did not take reasonable measures to prevent a foreseeable injury from occurring, the trainer violated public safety laws or the trainer misrepresented their skills and knowledge to the client and in fact did not have the necessary skills to be working on the case.  To limit the risk of liability  the professional must ensure all working locations are safe and the movement of dogs is carefully managed taking into consideration the risk factors presented by the dog’s behavior. All local laws should be adhered to and all persons concerned with the dog’s behavior should have signed off on a consulting contract that limits liability and includes a liability waiver. Professional trainers should also adhere to a code of conduct, act competently and only consult within the range of their competency.  When necessary, professionals should refer clients to another professional  (Welfel 2009).

At the end of a consulting contract professionals should confirm to their client in writing a summary of training that has taken place, the progress made during the training and recommendations for the future. The professional needs to also document any concerns they have regarding the dog so liability is minimized in the event of injury or damage caused by the dog’s future behavior.

Pet guardians are also open to liability risks with their pet dogs. Dog owners are liable for damage caused by their dogs and these liabilities differ from state to state. In some states operating with a strict statutory system the owners are responsible for all damages irrespective of whether negligence is proven. In states that operate under the one-bite-rule dog owners are responsible for damages after the first bite. Pet dog owners should be cognizant of their liability when working with aggressive dogs and determining how to manage them.

Welfel, E.R, (2009) Ethics in Counseling and Psychotherapy. Fourth edition. Brookes Cole USA.