Dog Trainer Liability

Injuries to dogs and people (other than the trainer) during a training session

A dog trainer can be held liable for injuries that happen during a training session. Victims might include the dog owner and his guests, other dog owners and their guests, and dogs belonging to other persons. An injury may be laid at the feet of the trainer on the ground that he assumed custody and control of the dog during the session. One of his implied duties is to conduct the session in a manner that ensures adequate safety for other people and their animals. Additionally, training a dog known to be vicious imposes further duties such as the obligation to warn those present and segregate the dog from people and other dogs.

Breach of one of these duties would expose the trainer to liability for negligence. There is no statutory limit to the compensation that a victim of dog trainer negligence may be entitled to receive. For that reason, the trainer’s legal duties and his clients’ remedies for alleged breach of those duties should be set forth by a written Dog Training Agreement.

Injuries to the trainer

Just as important is the trainer’s exposure to injuries inflicted upon him by a client’s dog. The doctrine of assumption of the risk prohibits a trainer in many states from winning compensation for medical bills, loss of income and the like. The rationalle for this unequal treatment is that accepting a job which presents the obvious risk of injury implies consent to be injured, or in other words, assumption of the risk of being injured.

Injuries that happen after a training session

A dog trainer can be held responsible for misrepresenting the effectiveness of the training given by the dog trainer. Predictions about a dog’s behavior after it is trained or evaluated must be presented as hopes, not future facts. If a lay person relies on a dog being gentle because the trainer assured everyone that the dog would be gentle, and it turns out that the dog was anything but gentle, the trainer’s statements which were misleading could be made the basis of legal liability on the part of the trainer. 

Similarly, the trainer must not overstate his qualifications. An example of doing so is the trainer who claims to be a “behaviorist.” It is best to avoid words, terms and promises that are false or misleading in any way. Courts treat misrepresentations harshly. Details and examples are given in Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips’ seminar-on-video, Avoiding Liability When Working With Dogs.

How the trainer can avoid being liable and can make the client pay for the trainer’s medical treatment

A properly drafted dog trainer’s contract, premises liability waiver, and safe procedures are essential for avoiding liability and receiving fair compensation when injured on the job. At a minimum, the training contract should describe the goals of the training, give the number and dates of the training sessions, set forth whether the sessions will be private and where they will take place, establish the amount of compensation, confirm that the dog owner has represented that the dog has not bitten anyone or been declared dangerous or vicious by the authorities, and provide that if the dog injuries the trainer the client will pay reasonable medical bills and compensation for loss of income. Click here for a Dog Training Agreement

How a client can make sure that the trainer will not sue the client

In some cases, the client will demand that the trainer sign a waiver which will relieve the client of any liability. The owner of a problematic dog who wants the dog rehabilitated usually wants written confirmation that there will be no liability if the trainer is injured in the course of the assignment. A proper waiver acknolwedges that the dog can bite, and that the client has not misrepresented the dog as being safe, and explicitly confirms that the trainer assumes all risks of injury. Click here for a Waiver of Liability by Dog Trainer