Ethics and position statements
As an organization working with an animal species and operating in human communities, The Dogzbody Academy feels it is appropriate to take a position on certain issues in a formal and documented manner so as to make clear our position in respect to the ethics and morals of certain related issues.
The Dogzbody Academy has adopted the LIMA statement of the APDT and hereby affords credit to the APDT for the development of this important component of contemporary dog training.
What Is LIMA?
What Is LIMA?
“LIMA” is an acronym for the phrase “least intrusive, minimally aversive”. LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective with minimal risk of producing aversive side effects. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used. 1
LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal’s environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.
LIMA Is Competence-Based
LIMA requires trainers/consultants to work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and eliminate the use of punishment when working with animal and human clients. In order to ensure best practices, consultants should pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting and training through continuing education, and hands-on experience. Trainers/consultants should not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience. 2
Positive Reinforcement and Understanding the Learner
Positive reinforcement should be the first line of teaching, training, and behavior change program considered, and should be applied consistently. Positive reinforcement is associated with the lowest incidence of aggression, attention seeking, avoidance, and fear in learners. 3
Only the learner determines what may be reinforcing. It is crucial that the trainer/consultant understands and has the ability to appropriately apply this principle. This fact may mean that the trainer/consultant assesses any handling, petting, food, tool, and environment each time the learner experiences them. Personal bias must not determine the learner’s experience. The measure of each stimulus is whether the learner’s target behavior is strengthening or weakening, not the trainer/consultant’s intent or preference.
Systematic Problem Solving and Strategies
The trainer/consultant is responsible for ensuring learner success through a consistent, systematic approach that identifies a specific target behavior, the purpose of that behavior, and the consequences that maintain the behavior.4
A variety of learning and behavior change strategies may come into play during a case. Ethical use of this variety always depends on the trainer/consultant’s ability to adequately problem solve and to understand the impact of each action on the learner, as well as sensitivity toward the learner’s experience.
We seek to prevent the abuses and potential repercussions of inappropriate, poorly applied, and inhumane uses of punishment and of overly-restrictive management and confinement strategies. The potential effects of punishment can include aggression or counter-aggression; suppressed behavior (preventing the trainer/consultant from adequately reading the animal); increased anxiety and fear; physical harm; a negative association with the owner or handler; increased unwanted behavior; and, new, unwanted behaviors. 5
Choice and Control for the Learner
LIMA guidelines require that trainer/consultants always offer the learner as much control and choice as possible. Trainer/consultants must treat each individual of any species with respect and awareness of the learner’s individual nature, preferences, abilities, and needs. 6
What Do You Want the Animal to do?
We focus on reinforcing desired behaviors, and always ask the question, “What do you want the animal to do?” Relying on punishment in training does not answer this question, and therefore offers no acceptable behavior for the animal to learn to replace the unwanted behavior. These LIMA guidelines do not justify the use of aversive methods and tools including, but not limited to, the use of electronic, choke or prong collars in lieu of other effective positive reinforcement interventions and strategies.
When making training and behavior modification decisions, trainers/consultants should understand and follow the Humane Hierarchy of Behavior Change – Procedures for Humane and Effective Practices, 7 outlined in the diagram.
For these reasons, we, strongly support the humane and thoughtful application of LIMA protocols, and we applaud those individuals and organizations working with animals and humans within LIMA guidelines.
The Humane Hierarchy serves to guide professionals in their decision-making process during training and behavior modification. Additionally, it assists owners and animal care professionals in understanding the standard of care to be applied in determining training practices and methodologies and the order of implementation for applying those training practices and methodologies.
Hierarchy of Procedures for Humane and Effective Practice
1. Health, nutritional, and physical factors: Ensure that any indicators for possible medical, nutritional, or health factors are addressed by a licensed veterinarian. The consultant should also address potential factors in the physical environment.
2. Antecedents: Redesign setting events, change motivations, and add or remove discriminative stimuli (cues) for the problem behavior.
3. Positive Reinforcement: Employ approaches that contingently deliver a consequence to increase the probability that the desired behavior will occur.
4. Differential Reinforcement of Alternative Behavior: Reinforce an acceptable replacement behavior and remove the maintaining reinforcer for the problem behavior.
5. Negative Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Extinction (these are not listed in any order of preference):
a) Negative Punishment – Contingently withdraw a positive reinforcer to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur.
b) Negative Reinforcement – Contingently withdraw an aversive antecedent stimulus to increase the probability that the right behavior will occur.
c) Extinction – Permanently remove the maintaining reinforcer to suppress the behavior or reduce it to baseline levels.
6. Positive Punishment: Contingently deliver an aversive consequence to reduce the probability that the problem behavior will occur.
BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION
The Dogzbody Academy supports the adoption or enforcement programs for the control of potentially dangerous or vicious dogs that is fair, non-discriminatory and addresses dogs that are shown by dog professionals to be dangerous by their actions.
The Dogzbody Academy is against laws that label a dog as dangerous or vicious based on appearance, breed or type. Canine temperaments are widely varied, and behavior cannot be predicted by appearance, breed or type. The only predictor of behavior is behavior.
The solution to preventing dog bites and other negative interactions between humans and canines is proper education of handlers, breeders, and the public about aggression prevention.
The Dogzbody Academy is associated with dog handlers, dog trainers, dog behavior specialists and other animal professionals. We are fully aware that dogs can bit and that any dog can potentially cause serious harm or even kill humans or other animals. A dangerous dog is likely a product of a combination of genetics, environmental handling, poor socialization and or lack of proper training. The solution to preventing dog bites and other negative interactions is proper education of handlers, breeders, and the public about aggression prevention.
Legislation of any kind against certain breeds or mixes of breeds and or certain types of dogs and singling out and publicly demonizing certain breeds as dangerous is unfair, discriminatory, and does an immense disservice to those breeds and the people who care about them. Breed specific legislation encourages the faulty public perception of other breeds as being inherently safe. This is misleading and can lead misguided individuals to engage in unsafe conduct with other breeds that can result in injury or death by individual representatives of those breeds mistakenly perceived as safe. Also, designating certain breeds as inherently dangerous implies to the public that behavior is not effectively influenced, positively or negatively, by training. This misconception will likely produce a growing number of dangerous dogs as misinformed, complacent dog owners fail to practice responsible aggression-prevention measures.
THE USE OF LETHAL FORCE AGAINST DOGS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
The Dogzbody Academy understands that in the course of their duties, law enforcement officers may come into contact with dogs that display seemingly “aggressive behavior”. Such displays are typically driven by the situation, responses of humans and uncertainty. What may appear to the officer(s) to be “aggressive behavior” may be a temporary display driven by the situation. Such situations are often fraught with tensions that cause a dog to behave untypically. We also recognize that in such situations, human safety is of the highest priority to the officers – their own as well as the safety of members of the public.
The Dogzbody Academy believes that it is unreasonable to expect law enforcement officers to have a enough understanding of dog behavior and/or ability to read dog body language and make split-second decisions while under stress and duress. This will not necessarily result in the best possible outcomes for the dog or dogs in question. It takes years of hands-on experience for dog training professionals to accurately read and appropriately respond to dog body language in high stress environments.
The Dogzbody Academy encourages law enforcement authorities and agencies to provide their officers with training in the areas of dog behavior and defensive dog handling in order that officers are as well-equipped as possible to handle such situations with reasonable force. For example, in some cases, the simple closing of a door or gate to keep a dog safely contained may be enough to ensure the safety of the officers and the public, and can make the difference between life and death for the dog/s.
The Dogzbody Academy encourages its appropriately-experienced members to make their services available to law enforcement and other public service agencies to provide such training, and urges all Dogzbody Academy members to educate their clients about the importance of taking proper and responsible restraint measures such as fenced yards or leashes while at home, and seat-belts or crates when traveling in vehicles, to keep their dogs as safe as possible at all times.
DANGEROUS DOG LEGISLATION
The Dogzbody Academy affirms the need to protect the public from “dangerous dogs” and or dogs displaying aggressively. Public safety must be achieved in a way that respects all parties involved – from the person or animal who was attacked, to the dog handlers and dogs that are the subject of poor training or handling and or reckless owner.
Dangerous dog laws must focus on the actual behavior of a dog in a particular incident and factors external to the dog that may have contributed to the incident. Laws that discriminate based on breed or breed type, rather than the behavior of the individual dog, are neither effective nor reasonable. The Dogzbody Academy believes that dangerous dog laws must be breed neutral.
The Dogzbody Academy believes the adoption or enforcement of legislation for the control of nuisance dogs that is fair, non-discriminatory and addresses dogs that are shown to be a nuisance by their actions is required. The Dogzbody Academy also supports the adoption or enforcement of laws for the maintenance of a fair standard of care for a dog’s existence.
As an organization comprised of dog trainers, dog behaviorists and other animal professionals, The Dogzbody Academy is fully aware that a single dog can be as much of a nuisance as a group of dogs. Whether a dog is considered a nuisance or not is dependent on the owner’s commitment level, living arrangement, and the dog’s level of training or lack of training, not by the number of pets in an individual’s care.
Likewise, a single dog can be housed in sub-standard living conditions as well as a group of dogs. The quality of a dog’s care is dependent on the owner’s commitment level, available time and other lifestyle factors, not by the number of pets in an individual’s care.
Legislation attempting to limit the number of dogs any person/s can care for must be based the owner’s commitment level, available time and other lifestyle factors
The Dogzbody Academy is uncomfortable with the use of crates as a confinement tool and recommends the use of crates for puppies and dogs ONLY as a short-term training tool and as travel safety equipment throughout a dog’s life.
Crates can be a valuable tool for house training and travel safety. Beyond these 2 areas we do not see any real need for confinement is a small or cramped area for any dog. We do not accept that crates should be used for managing environments so that dogs avoid developing problem behaviors such as destructive chewing and counter-surfing. This is simply avoidance and does not address the required training needs. Crates can provide safe restraint in the car, and make it easier to travel with your dog by providing short-term confinement options in a hotel or anywhere else you might visit.
If crates must be used then introduction of dogs to a crate gradually makes sense ensuring that it’s a pleasant experience. It is important to choose a crate of appropriate size that is as a minimum based on IATA regulations and adjust confinement times as the dog matures in order to build long term success. Avoid using the crate as punishment, and avoid crating a dog who is experiencing anxiety, whether that anxiety stems from the confinement itself, separation from a loved one, or from environmental factors like a thunderstorm or other dogs.
We do not recommend the use of crates as a confinement tool for extended periods – this is a tool best used in conjunction with a comprehensive training and socialization program guided by a professional dog trainer.
LICENSING OF DOG TRAINERS
Regular allegations of animal abuse against dog trainers and other pet care professionals has led to calls for licensing in the pet care industry. The Dogzbody Academy cautions against reactive legislation, and encourages a careful and in-depth consideration of the pros and cons of imposing a licensing requirement on dog trainers.
We believe that self regulation and education are a far better solution to ensure standards are upheld in our industry.
We believe that self regulation and education are a far better solution to ensure standards are upheld in our industry.
In order to allow full and fair consideration of the necessity and pros and cons of licensing, we strongly recommend an industry study group or work group that will elicit public comment and input from professionals and stakeholders and public comments prior to adopting legislation that would require dog trainers to be licensed.
Some of the benefits to requiring dog trainers to be licensed include:
- Imposing standards for dog training that will protect public, consumers and animals
- Identifying trainers for the public
- Identifying disqualifying conditions for trainers, which should include convictions for animal related offenses
Some of the cons of requiring dog trainers to be licensed include:
- Licensing may give dog owners the impression that a particular trainer is competent when that may not be the case
- Inadvertently detracting from the need to zealously prosecute abuse or neglect, or other animal related offenses
- Added expense to trainers and the public
- Risk that licensing is seen as a revenue resource for government or local authority without achieving the goals of welfare, health and safety
- Allowing easy identification of trainers for improper purposes, including for spamming and blast marketing efforts
If government weighs these pros and cons and decides that licensing of the dog training profession is appropriate, The Dogzbody Academy sees the following as vital components of a successful licensing structure:
- Implementation and oversight by a proper agency with experience in licensing of other professions and trades.
- Ethical standards, including adherence to Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) methods of training
- Minimum trade relevant education and training to qualify for licensing
- Continuing education and training requirements
- Disciplinary system
- Legal prohibition from practicing dog training without meeting the licensing requirement
- Legal prohibition from eligibility for a license (or revocation of the license if already licensed) for individuals convicted of cruelty, neglect or abuse of humans and/or animals, as well as other animal related offenses including abandonment and animal fighting.
- Protection of the identity of licensees to protect companies and individuals using identity and contact information for improper purposes, such as exemptions from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and similar laws.