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Frequently Asked Questions

This section only provides general answers and summaries.  For more specific information consult the appropriate section of this web site. If questions remain after reviewing the AVBT web site, contact us.

Where do I start if I want to become specialized in behavior?

First, candidates must be credentialed veterinary technicians, licensed or certified to practice in the state in which they reside. Prospective candidates should join the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians (SVBT) to gain access to valuable continuing education and CE announcements, networking opportunities, and access to the webinars, newsletters, and online groups especially for SVBT members. Technicians and other animal care professionals with an interest in behavior should consider joining SVBT even if their eventual goal is not a VTS. Additionally, it would benefit you to join the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) and become an active member of your state organization. Candidates for the exam must provide proof they are members of NAVTA and SVBT when submitting their membership packets. Prospective candidates should familiarize themselves with the recommended reading list, skills list, and basic requirements for the candidate packet. Extensive continuing education, clinical practice, and skills assessments must be completed before candidates can apply to be considered to take the exam.

What are the benefits from certification in the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians?

AVBT was organized to further the recognition of technicians as critical components of the veterinary behavior team in creating, maintaining, and strengthening the human-animal bond. Technicians seeking certification should be committed to advancing their professionalism in the field of behavior. Accreditation provides a way to further your career and enhance your personal growth. There is no way to predict whether it will result in increased salary, but it will demonstrate your commitment to excellence and your dedication to helping yourself, the client and the animal.

Do behavior technicians have the same job opportunities as other technicians?

The job possibilities for behavior technicians are infinite. The following is a list of just some of the areas where behavior technicians can play a key role: private practice, large animal, small animal, exotic animal, animal welfare, research, education, academia, shelter medicine, pet training, zoological, wildlife, animal therapy and support dog work.

Can veterinary technicians from countries outside the United States achieve “specialty status?”

Yes. Specialty candidates must be graduates of an AVMA approved Veterinary Technician School and/or legally credentialed to practice as a Veterinary Technician in a state, territory or province of the United States, Canada, or another country.

Must I work for a Diplomate to qualify?

Although working for a Diplomate would certainly expedite the completion of your candidate packet, it is not necessary.

Must I work for a veterinarian to be a candidate?

Intervention cases require a veterinarian’s treatment. The veterinarian must make a diagnosis, prescribe a treatment plan, and be the person responsible for prescribing any other treatments and medications.  The veterinarian is not required to be boarded in animal behavior, and is not required to be your employer. However, you must be able to definitively demonstrate an established professional relationship and a clear cooperative approach to cases while working within the scope of practice for a veterinary technician.Preventive cases do not require a veterinarian but it must be clear the case is preventive rather than intervention. If the candidate committee has any questions pertaining to your packet (specifically your skills and case log) a veterinarian should be on record for the committee to contact with questions.

How long can I expect to work before I am able to satisfy the requirements for becoming specialized in behavior?

Specialty certification signifies that the technician possesses exceptional experience in the field of animal behavior. This type of knowledge can only be gained through a dedicated and concerted effort on the part of the candidate. It takes time. The number of years you work depends upon how much of your time is spent on behavior. Technicians who spend a minimum of 15.5 hours per week working in the field of behavior can earn their 4000 hours in five years. A technician who spends 25 hours a week working in the field of behavior can earn 4000 hours in a little less than 3 ½ years.

Can I count experience I gained prior to becoming a credentialed technician?

Hours of any kind (experience, prevention, intervention, and continuing education) may only be counted if they occur after the veterinary technician credential has been earned.

Can you summarize what should be included in the packet?

Application packets should contain the following (NOTE: this is a general list, specific details of requirements are listed on the application section of the AVBT web site)

  1. Application Agreement with $50 non-fundable application fee

  2. Curriculum Vitae

  3. Two letters of recommendations from VTS-Behavior, ACVB Diplomate, or supporting veterinarian

  4. Proof of membership with NAVTA and SVBT

  5. Completed skills assessment form

  6. Time sheet – 3 years (4,000 hours) minimum work experience in behavior prior to application

  7. CE records – 40 hours within five years prior to application. No more than 2/3 (28 hours) can come from one source and at least half must be veterinary behavior CE

  8. Case Log – 50 cases within 1-3 years of application or a minimum of one year of research devoted to behavior

  9. Five case reports (specific format can be found elsewhere on this web site)

Who qualifies as a “skills assessment supervisor”?

The Skills Assessment Supervisor (SAS) is another veterinarian or credentialed technician who verifies the candidate successfully completed all of the required skills. Candidates may have more than one person serve as a SAS. If someone other than a veterinarian or credentialed technician is selected as assessment supervisor, the candidate is required to submit an email or letter explaining the qualifications of that person for review by the AVBT board of regents prior to completing the Skills Assessment Form.

What types of work can I count toward my time record? If I restrain an aggressive dog can I count that?

A veterinary technician’s role is primarily preventative, especially in private practice. The committee has taken this into consideration and therefore will allow up to 75% of your time (3000 hours) to be in a preventative role. Examples of problem prevention include but are not limited to:

  1. Puppy classes / kitten classes

  2. Adolescent classes

  3. Discussing problem prevention in the exam room

  4. Desensitization to nail trims, etc.

  5. Fitting head collars or other training tools

  6. Triaging behavior issues on the phone

You can include restraint of an aggressive dog only if you can document how you improved and modified the situation.

How many cases are required to be documented in the case logs? How many case log reports are required to be submitted with the application?

Candidates should document a minimum of 50 cases they worked with within 1-3 years prior to submitting an application. At least 75% (37) of those cases require a diagnosis from the veterinarian. Additionally, there should be a detailed report submitted on five cases. These case reports should involve at least two different species. A maximum of one report can describe a problem prevention case that does not require a veterinarian’s diagnosis. A maximum of one report can describe pet selection counseling that does not require a veterinarian’s diagnosis. (NOTE: detailed information can be found in the candidate section of the AVBT web site)

Is there a mentorship program?

AVBT does not currently offer a structured mentorship program, but we plan to offer one in the future, once the size of the academy is sufficient to support such a program. Candidates who would like the opportunity to correspond with a current VTS (Behavior) should email info@avbt.net to be put in contact with the nearest specialist to their location.

My own pet is being treated for a behavior problem. Can I count working with my own animal in my hours?

You may not count hours working with your own pets.

I am a volunteer or employee of an animal shelter. Can I count hours working with shelter animals?

If you are working in a structured program to prevent or treat behavioral concerns for the animals in question, those hours may be counted. Pet selection counseling hours may be counted. Adopter education on problem prevention may be counted. Hours spent walking, grooming, medicating, or providing other basic husbandry for shelter animals do not count toward a VTS application.

I am a certified trainer. How can I earn my VTS (Behavior)?

The first step for anyone interested in a VTS (Behavior) is to be credentialed veterinary technician. Your certification as a trainer and wealth of experience will benefit you during the process of pursuing your VTS (Behavior), but any hours, cases, or skills assessments may only be counted if they occur after the veterinary technician credential has been awarded.

I have been a trainer for many years, and am now a veterinary technician. Can I count my training hours prior to my technician certification?

Your knowledge as a trainer and wealth of experience will benefit you during the process of pursuing your VTS (Behavior), but any hours, cases, or skills assessments may only be counted if they occur after the veterinary technician credential has been awarded.

I have attended many seminars and continuing education events during my career. Which ones count toward my CE for my application?

Only hours accrued after becoming a credentialed veterinary technician and during the application period (5 years prior to application submission) can be counted.

Is online Continuing Education acceptable?

Yes, online continuing education is acceptable, but it must be fully documented including proof of attendance and the quality of the material will be taken into account. Prospective candidates are strongly encouraged to pursue at least half of their CE hours in-person.

I am a veterinary technician student. When can I begin working toward my VTS (Behavior)?

You may begin the process of educating yourself at any time, but no hours, cases, or skills assessments will be counted until after the credential of veterinary technician has been completed.

The veterinarians at my practice do not provide treatment for behavior disorders. How can I complete my hours and case logs?

It is very challenging to meet the intervention hours requirements for applying to take the VTS (Behavior) examination when working in a practice where the veterinarians do not participate in behavior treatment. Hours spent as an intern if the intern is the primary technician on the case, hours spent volunteering with a clinician if the volunteer is the primary technician on the case, and hours spent volunteering to treat shelter animals who are undergoing veterinary-prescribed behavior treatment are all alternate ways to accumulate experience and hours if your own veterinarians do not treat behavior disorders. A clear professional relationship between the veterinarian prescribing the intervention and the technician must be demonstrated.

I am observing/shadowing a trainer, clinician, or VTS. Does observation time count toward my prevention or intervention hours?

Observation hours will greatly benefit the candidate, but these hours will not be counted toward prevention or intervention. The technician must be an active participant in the prevention or treatment plan for the hours to be counted.

A patient is presented to our hospital for a behavioral concern, but the presenting behavior complaint leads to a medical diagnosis (eg UTI for housesoiling, or osteoarthritis pain for aggression). Does this case count toward my hours?

Any hours spent taking a behavior history relevant to the presenting complaint, evaluating the patient to rule in or out behavioral concerns, and any concurrent behavioral therapies may be counted toward hours. If a change in behavior or resolution of the presenting behavioral complaint is one of the parameters being monitored to assess response to medical treatment, those follow-up hours will also be counted.  If the behavioral complaint is resolved, but the underlying medical concern requires ongoing treatment, those hours will not be counted.