In the last post I wrote about the importance of having an independent certifying person certifying anyone that gives advice about pet behavior to pet parents or that work hands-on with the dog. At present the only “voluntary” third-party certification is the Certification Council for Professionals Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Another important factor that comes with a legitimate third-party certification is the bylaws. When it comes to working with sentient beings these bylaws are a MUST. Because anyone providing a service should have some sort of code of ethics and professional standard in working with the public.
Here is the code of ethics that anyone choosing to become certified by CCPDT must abide by.
1. To understand and fully comply with the CCPDT Training and Behavior Practices Policy.
2. To use training and behavior modification methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.
3. To always provide for the safety of clients and animals in training programs and behavior consultations.
4. To act with honesty and integrity toward clients, respecting their legitimate training and behavior goals and the autonomy of their choices, provided they conform to societal and legal standards of humane treatment for their pet.
5. To refrain from public defamation of colleagues, respecting their right to establish and follow their own principles of conduct, provided those principles are ethical and humane according to the CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.
6. To provide truthful advertising and representations concerning certificant’s qualifications, experience, performance of services, pricing of services and expected results; to provide full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to clients and other professionals.
7. To refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training.
8. To use properly authorized logos and credentials provided by the CCPDT when marketing in print or electronic media.
9. To obtain written informed consent from any client prior to photographing, video or audio recording a dog training session.
10. To work within the professional boundaries of the CCPDT certifications and individual expertise and refrain from providing diagnosis, advice, or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless certified to do so. This does not preclude referring the client to a veterinary or behavior consulting professional.
11. To maintain and respect the confidentiality of all information obtained from clients in the course of business; to refrain from disclosure of information about clients or their pets to others without the client’s explicit consent, except as required by law.
12. To be aware of and comply with applicable laws, regulations, and ethical standards governing professional practices, treatment of animals (including cases of neglect or abuse), and reporting of dog bites in the state/province/country when interacting with the public and when providing dog training or behavior consulting services.
13. To keep accurate and complete records of clients, their animals and the training and behavior services provided; to ensure secure storage and, when appropriate, confidential disposal of such records.
14. To continue professional development as required for maintaining the CCPDT credentials in accordance with the policies of the CCPDT.
15. To refrain from making material misrepresentations as part of the application for certification or recertification.
16. To maintain and respect the confidentiality and security of the contents of any and all certification examinations of the CCPDT including, but not limited to, refraining from: stealing portions of, or the entire, examination(s); removing written examination materials from a test or meeting site without authorization; reproducing and/or disseminating examination materials without authorization; using paid test takers for the purpose of reconstructing an examination; using improperly obtained test questions to prepare person(s) for the examination; cheating during an examination; impersonating an examinee or having an impersonator take an examination.
While I find that all the bylaws above are worth pursuing, there is two that I want to expand upon:
1. To use training and behavior modification methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.
Working with animals is not an easy endeavor for many reasons. First off, animals are dangerous. Yes indeed, they are cute, and furry – in some cases, but any animal with teeth has the potential for creating a lot of damage. Did you know, for example, that a cat’s bite is considered a medical emergency? When the person working with an animal or giving advice as to how to work with one is not knowledgeable of the species, not only will the training or behavior modification be below average, but someone might get hurt. Also, important to consider is the distress (or worse!) that this person can create for the animal. And this clearly not caring for the animal.
There is SO much research that has been done when it comes to Animal Learning that frankly there is no excuse for ignorance. Period. It is the responsibility of the trainer to understand these principles which are in effects LAWS of learning. Not someone’s opinion, but laws that as such have been verified over and over again. Of course, there is always advances in science so we are always discovering or revising this knowledge. Besides, one of the perks of learning about animals is how fascinating they are.
It never ceases to bring a smile to my face when I see one of my clients ask me how I am able to do what I do upon just meeting their dog. No. Good trainers do not carry a “magic-wand” in their training gear. Our “magic-wand” is knowledge.
This knowledge permits us to be humane (re-read the bylaw above now) because we know that we do not need to hurt or scare an animal to teach them. This has been confirmed over and over again in multiple studies. When you are told that they need to scare your dog or hurt your dog to teach them or to assert who is the leader, this is false. What it does tell me is that the person working with you has failed to understand how positive reinforcerment works. As a form of clarification a few lines about punishment: (Positive) Punishment as defined in the Behavioral Sciences is the presentation of an aversive. Also, by definition punishment does SUPRESS behavior. So yes, by definition if the behavior in question goes down in frequency by the use of aversives (an aversive is anything a dog wants to avoid because it causes fear or pain) then the methodology being employed is punishment.
Important to know: All punishment is an aversive but not all aversives are considered, in the behavioral sciences as punishment. The reason being, that in order to be considered “punishment” the intervention must bring the frequency of the behavior down. Well then, you might ask, why not use punishment? And the answer is that when we introduce punishment into our repertoire of working with animals we must understand that punishment has “fallouts” – or consequences.
These consequences are not something someone can predict as if they will happen and in what form. For example: A dog is shocked as “avoidance training” for snakes, as a result, the dog now attacks compulsively anything that resembles a snake. Case two: a dog is shocked as part of the “training” for an invisible fence, now this dog will not step into the backyard and has attacked men which he did not do before. The person installing the fencing and who shocked the dog was a male. These two examples are from real cases that have landed at my front door.
2. The second bylaw (bylaw # 7) that I want to highlight is the one stating that anyone giving behavior advice should not make any guarantees as to the results. Sure, they are plenty of folks out there looking for guarantees – as if we were selling them a fridge and clearly behavior is so much more complex than the workings of the most sophisticated fridge in the market. There is, of course, “professionals” that will offer guarantees as if they were repairing a leaky roof. (I am sighing at this point…) So, my advice is: If you are considering working with someone and they give you any guarantee for results as to the behavior of your dog, walk away. This red flag should tell you the person is a good salesperson, but not keen on the workings of behavior! I once took a marketing & client retention course, and one of the participants in the group kept pressing the person giving the course about guarantees of results. I remember clearly thinking how obnoxious this person was and very curious as to how the pro would respond. She finally said to him: “If you do EVERY SINGLE exercise in the binder (big binder, folks!), you attend EVERY call, participate in all the group discussions. Yes, I think you will get the results you are looking for.” I thought her answer was brilliant.
You see, behavior is complicated because we are complicated. We are unpredictable, and unable to stick at anything for very long. This is just how we are wired and we must make tremendous efforts (implement every training plan with exquisite precision, train every day and so on) in order to get above the frail. So then, the better questions potential customers should ask from a trainer they are considering working with are:
Tell me about your qualifications? Any schooling? Degrees? If so, check them out. The “I LOVE DOGS and THEY LOVE me” is nice, but not enough (or even needed!) to train them.
What methodologies will you use? If you don’t understand the lingo, ask for specifics.
Do you have experience with this issue? Some people can teach your dog a mean “sit” or “down” but have no experience with resource guarding or separation anxiety.
Ask for references (testimonials- I love- but I want to hear from the person itself) so I suggest reaching out. If possible, I always call instead of email potential references so that I can hear in their voices hesitation or full approval. Ask this person specific questions of any area of concern you might have.
Finally, make absolutely sure you are comfortable with the person. You trust them as individuals and you are comfortable with how they will treat your dog. Remember, your dog depends on you to keep him/her safe, happy and thriving.