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When One Dog Scuffles With Another While Being Trained By Your Staff, What Do You Need to Do?

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SHAWN ALWAYS WANTED TO add dog-training services to his small pet retail store in SoHo in New York City, but he has limited space inside to host classes. After three years in business, he finally partnered with a good friend and seasoned dog trainer, Cory, to start offering individual dog-training services.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY E. HASSEL is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Saturday mornings are always the busiest at Shawn’s store, with pet parents out and about with their pups in this dog-friendly and popular area of the city. While checking out a customer’s purchase, Shawn’s cellphone was ringing. Looking down at the phone he saw it was Cory, who had left with a new client’s dog a half hour before. Shawn picked up, “Hey, hold on. I’m ringing up a customer.”

“OK, there you go, have a great day, and we will see you and Max soon!” Shawn said, handing a bag of dog treats to his customer, and then returned to his cellphone.

“Hey, how’s your session going?” he asked. “What? Wait, slow down, I can’t understand … what? How did that happen?” Shawn could feel his heart beating in his chest. Realizing that another customer was in the pet toy aisle right across from him, Shawn turned, walked a few feet away and quietly said, “Is anyone hurt? Is the dog OK?”

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“Um … well, uh, I was evaluating the dog as we were walking, doing simple training along the way,” Cory said. “Remember his owner said he is sometimes leash-aggressive? But he was doing great with me … until someone walked by with their small dog on a retractable leash. The small dog rushed over right into Duke’s face, and that’s when Duke went a ballistic and tried to get the little dog.”

“Oh no!” Shawn exclaimed. “Where are you now? Is the owner still there?”

“The owner left with the dog, said they were to the vet around the corner,” Cory said. “I think that his dog will be OK. It seemed like more growling than anything else from Duke. He wouldn’t show me if the dog was actually injured, or they were just both startled. It didn’t look like Duke put his mouth on the little dog, but he was growling and the little dog screamed. I had Duke back into a sit stay very quickly.”

“Did he take your information, or did you get his information?” Shawn asked.

“Well he took my card, but I was not able to get his info because he was so upset and wanted to go the vet right away. I told him to contact me to let me know how the dog is.”

Shawn let out a big sigh. “Man, I hope the dog is OK, and they contact you, well, contact us, to let us know how the dog is …”

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“Yeah, me too. I am heading back now with Duke,” Cory said. “We will see you in a bit and figure out what to do, and we have to call his owner,” Cory said.

“OK, see you soon,” replied Shawn. Shaking his head, Shawn was now worried what would happen next.

The Big Questions

  • How should Shawn handle this when the small dog owner calls?
  • If your store offered a training service like this, how do you deal with the legalities of a situation like this?
  • Shawn is nervous now about continuing offering this service, what should he do?

Real Deal Responses

Iva K. Stow, MA

The business owner must show genuine concern for the small dog and its owner. This will go a long way. I would suggest a policy about retractable leads on visitors as well. In the least, insist on them being locked as soon as you see one in your store. After the situation has calmed down, someone should try to talk to the small dog owner about their personal responsibility in this event. 

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Dawn T. Vero Beach, FL

First of all, to evaluate a dog it should be in a controlled circumstance, not out in the public area. Second, once you are out in the public, there should be two trainers as to have protection if a small dog such as this came running up to a leash-aggressive dog in training. Third, have the business as well as the trainer insured for cases like this. 

Karen C. Delavan, WI

We have offered training for over 20 years. There really is no way to avoid what happened in the story if you are out in public training. The key is to know what to do when it does! Our training takes place inside until the dogs have good skills and the owners are confident in their handling skills. A dog going after another dog is real life and what we train for! We cover what to do if this scenario happens, and frankly it has happened in class with student dogs. To protect yourself as an owner is important. Have a policy in place and be prepared to pay some vet bills if there is an injury. The trainer should carry insurance as well. Luckily, these skirmishes aren’t usually serious but are a great learning experience.

Carolyn B. McHenry, IL

Personally, I would have immediately gone to the vet’s office. I would want to be present to see for myself what the injuries are or are not, so that I can better understand how to handle the situation. When/if the owner calls, Shawn’s first reaction should be, “How is the dog?” Shawn should then apologize for the situation and listen to the owner. Establish whether there was damage and to what extent. If there was, he should offer to pay the vet bill. If there was no damage, Shawn should offer a free service of some sort; assure the owner that he is handling the matter and reviewing protocol with his trainer. Review what happened to determine whether the trainer is competent and whether he could have prevented the incident. Review protocol with the trainer and discuss how to handle situations before they occur to avoid the current incident.

Bob W. Colorado Springs, CO

Since this did not happen at the store, why is the store even involved? If Shawn’s insurance does not include liability ($2 million/$4 million), he should make sure his policy does, should the incident happen at his store. His trainer is an independent contractor and needs his own insurance listing Shawn’s place as co-insured.

Marcia C. Springfield, VA

If your insurance pays a claim, have the injured party sign a non-disclosure agreement that prevents them from further claims from this injury as well as from making slanderous/libelous comments about your business in person or in social media.

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Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com.

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