About the Joint Standards of Practice

What are the Joint Standards of Practice?

The Joint Standards of Practice were adopted in 2019 by a coalition of organizations for animal behavior professionals. They were designed to be a set of ethical best practices for all professional dog trainers and behavior consultants — the first such guidelines adopted by more than one organization.

Some subscribing members are (in alphabetical order)*

By aligning with other leading organizations, the coalition formed a unified baseline of professional conduct, ethics, and answerability in the field. This standardization of expectations and requirements serves to protect the public and professionals.

Who is covered

All members of all the participating organizations are covered by the Joint Standards of Practice.  Whether they are currently working as a professional in behavior or training, or an enthusiast who occasionally takes on a case, the Joint Standards apply to them. 

Some of the subscribing organizations also certify and accredit professionals who work with other species. IAABC, for example, certifies members in Parrot, Horse, Shelter, and Cat Divisions. Their members are bound by the Joint Standards too. 

What are the benefits?

Being a unified voice makes it easier for the public to hear us. Dog training and behavior consulting is an unregulated industry, and effective marketing is all an individual needs to find clients. Some of the most effective marketing, however, employs incredibly unethical dog training — promising to “fix” dogs, using violent and ineffective techniques coupled with outdated and incorrect thinking to create a short-term appearance of “rehabilitation,” — as serious professionals, we are constantly battling to dispel myths about why dogs behave the way they do, and explain the dangers hidden in these approaches. Uniting under one clear statement of ethics allows our organizations to take on this debate as one, instead of focusing on the much more minor differences in our philosophies. 

Having one professional joint standards also allows us to share more resources. Now that we have a shared starting point, we can come together and work on advancing our industry’s ethics still further. 

A shared standard and procedure for making ethics reports also allows for greater transparency between organizations. This makes it much harder for individuals who have failed to meet their ethical obligations to maintain a certification or membership to any professional organization. Before the Joint Standards, an individual could quit an organization when they had an ethics complaint made against them and join a competing organization with a different code of ethics. Now, an ethics violation as a certified member of one organization is reported as a violation of the Joint Standards, so these individuals cannot slip through the cracks.

Is this regulation?

Dog training is an unregulated industry. Anyone who can declare themselves a small business can legally call themselves a professional dog trainer, behavior consultant, or behaviorist. There are no requirements to have any qualifications, mentoring, or experience before taking on a client or teaching a class. 

There is an increasing awareness among dog behavior professionals and the public that the current state of the industry is problematic. In fact, some sort of industry regulation or occupational licensing is currently being looked at in several US jurisdictions (go here for a current list). 

Members and participants are legally bound to abide by the Jiont Standards of Practice as long as they are members of a subscribing organization. Some of the subscribing organizations are also lobbying for industry regulation, but regardless of whether and where that happens, the Joint Standards are there to promote accountability and sound professional practice for dog trainers and behavior consultants worldwide.

*Not all subscribers to the Joint Standards of Practice are participants in the Joint Ethics Panel at this time.