Why LIMA isn’t enough
Disclaimer: I practice Buddhism which regardless of which lineage you follow has nonharm to all sentient beings as the core value and practice. So the ethics and morals in which I follow oftentimes do not align with dog training organizations I am a part of. LIMA, (Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive) does not follow nonharm, nor does any other certification that I am a part of. That is important to understand as the certification guidelines are very minimal and do not practice nonharm or the ethics and morals that I practice at their cores.
People tend to get frustrated, and more aversive in their behaviors, speech, and techniques the more their training or behavior modification does not work or does not work fast enough. Punishment is permitted as a “last step” in the very hierarchy that the APDT, CPDT, and IAABC follow and have adopted (LIMA). Because of this glaring problem, be very careful at who you decide to have teach you and your family or the dissension from non-harm to harm will become apparent the further along the process a trainer or behaviorist is unable to help you and your dog. Reverting to force is inevitable if one does not believe that force or harm is not an option.
What do the following dog training, and pet sitting organizations and “schools” have in common?
- APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)
- NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters)
- IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals)
- AKC (American Kennel Club)
- ABC (Animal Behavior College) (Updated 12/31/2014)
They are organizations that I no longer support. They do not have the best interest of your dog at heart and lack compassion. The APDT, IACP, NAPPS, AKC, and others are useless metrics in which to gauge the proficiency of a behavior specialist, dog trainer or pet professional.
The Dissonance, Hypocrisy, and Inhumanity of Inclusivity in dog training “Teaching”
It would be nice if both pet parents and dogs learned behaviors quickly and easily, however, if we are to adhere to the first rule of the science of behavior and Buddhism—do no harm—we must avoid shortcuts. Behaviorists and dog trainers first and foremost need to advocate for compassionate and sound behavior modification practices that do not expose dogs/patients, or pet parents to unnecessary risks. Such force-free techniques and certified fear-free training procedures reduce emotional fallout and damage.
I successfully petitioned the AVMA years ago to adopt AVSAB’s position statement on How to Choose a Trainer when they previously had no official stance. I act as a watchdog for animal rights because nonhuman animals (herein called animals) can not speak for themselves. At least not in the conventional way we describe “speaking”.
Dog Training Corporal Punishment?
The perfidy is shocking. Could you imagine your child’s school defending corporal punishment behind the veil of “inclusivity”? Imagine they claimed to support all “teachers,” even relics who believe in old-school abuse, hitting, yelling, choking, intimidating, shocking and flooding your child as a way to “teach” kids because they wanted to be inclusive and open to all forms of “teaching”? This is a no-brainer. No educated practitioner would consider flooding/response blocking an acceptable form of exposure therapy, it is never the least intrusive choice given all the tools we have and on the opposite side of the humane/compassion spectrum. “Teachers” who taught in this manner on dogs may be put in jail and would be out of business today if this abuse was attempted on a child. So how and why can animal organizations get away with this?
A lack of regulation in the industry and money has caused many to go astray. Many avarice-focused organizations such as APDT, AKC, NAPPS, IACP, and others are ignorantly supporting animal abusers in their refusal to take a stance for what are the most compassionate, humane and effective training methods (without health fallout). These organizations cater to dollars as their primary constituency, and their goals are abundantly clear. They aim to increase membership numbers and to include every layman under the sun as “professionals” regardless of how much damage their “training” methods cause. Their de facto endorsement of abuse, hiding under the veil of their “all-inclusive” mantra is the bane of our industry and the very platform by which traditional “trainers” try and gain credibility to ruse the public at the expense of parents, our industry, and the pets we have pledged to serve.
Companies that have conflicting messages and do not embrace change slide into obscurity. Even the largest capitalist companies on Wall Street heed the call of ethics, morals and clear messages that are in line with their mission statements. The recent decision of CVS to stop selling all cigarette and tobacco products is a perfect example “forgoing $2 billion in annual revenue from tobacco and other sundries as a result.” We applaud and choose to spend our money (vote) at responsible, ethical companies where beings and compassion come before profits. CVS Chief Executive, Larry Merlo, stated “[tobacco products] have no place in a drugstore company that is trying to become more of a health-care provider. Cigarettes have no place in an environment where health care is being delivered.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Companies either evolve or dissolve.
The reason I am bent on outing these types of egregious nuances is simple. Animals have no voice, and it is our responsibility to be their advocates above all else. Being an advocate includes empowerment, bodily integrity, force-free, fear-free education, health, nutrition, medical attention, enrichment, shelter, socialization, play, exercise…etc. I have dedicated my life to educating animals both human and nonhuman in a compassionate way. Compassion does not discriminate, and more dogs die from poor behavior than for any other reason.1
Never underestimate the power of one
Life can sometimes feel daunting, overwhelming and disempowering. The feeling of, it’s me against the world, or what can I possibly do to make a difference, often pervades many of our psyches. If we shake those thoughts and persevere, upon reflection, we can see that the payout of service and giving back is monumental. Once we are removed from the frame to see the big picture, the rewards are abundant to help others and make a difference.
Life is all about the small victories that mean the world to others. This is why we advocate adopt, don’t shop, veganism, and compassion through all of our actions. However, in my defiance and efforts to thwart speciesism, and during the daily battle to make the world fairer, the stress, pressure, and stagnation can sometimes feel overwhelming sometimes leading to compassion fatigue. Instead of allowing negative thoughts to prevail such as: what good am I doing, whose life am I helping, how can I make a difference today, I focus on the wins and differences that I have made.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Dahli Lama
I am a dog trainer in Los Angeles California, and like many of you, I am a passionate, caring and driven individual who abides by a strong internal moral and ethical compass. It brings me great pleasure to bring positive, helpful and compassionate change to other dogs and families.
Over the many years that I have been a student of applied animal behavior, dog training, in the pet industry and animal activism, I have witnessed a deluge of changes in staffs, board of directors, mission statements, visions, sponsorships, ideologies, and position statements than I care to remember, and many of which do not benefit the voiceless animal. In this vein, I am inspired to continue as a watchdog for animal rights, and professional organizations in our industry that we follow and support. Below are some examples of current conflicts and concerns in the industry, organizations that I would suggest boycotting and speaking out against until humane, up-to-date and compassionate change is made. This leads me to the AVSAB (American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior). In contrast to other organizations, the AVSAB stands out by not supporting conflicting mixed messages; they are making positive, compassionate change, listening to the concerned voices of their constituents, and choosing the high road to help the voiceless.
AVSAB Position Statements NO LONGER Sponsored by Shock Collar Company
While providing the AVSAB Puppy Socialization Position Statement to a client, I noticed on the bottom of the page the sponsorship label “Premier” now known as “Pet Safe.” And sadly again on AVSAB’s Position Statement denouncing the Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals. I could not believe what I was seeing. After rubbing my eyes incredulously, there it was staring right back at me. As you may be aware, Premier pet products got bought out by the shock collar company ironically named “Pet Safe” years ago. Many educated, ethical, compassionate professionals boycott this company and their products after the buyout in favor of the many other ethical companies that do not support animal abuse. I boycott companies such as these so I was naturally shocked (no pun intended) to see that AVSAB would allow this association/sponsorship. However, I am very pleased with the letter below and the outcome of our discussions. Not all organizations are responsive, thoughtful, compassionate and ethical. Luckily for all animals, the AVSAB is sensitive, thoughtful and conscientious. While working with AVSAB to rectify this glaring conflict, I was told the following by the President of AVSAB, Dr. John Ciribassi:
I have received some feedback from the board. I was informed that when Premier made the donation, and before they were owned by Pet Safe, the understanding was that the donation was to cover only the first printing of the documents. As a result, we no longer have an obligation to maintain their image in the pieces as I had erroneously thought when I first wrote back to you.
As a result, we will be removing the Premier Logo from the statements on the web site. Apparently, the printed copies had the logo removed but the older pdf versions were left on the web site. We will be putting up more current versions.
The board, and myself, wanted to thank you for calling this to our attention and I am glad we can get it worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.
President of (AVSAB) American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
I am delighted to announce that after speaking with the president and board of AVSAB, they have decided to make the ethical and responsible decision to remove the sponsorship of the Premier logo on their position statements. For those that were not aware of the sponsorship association, AVSAB had retained the Premier logo on two position statements:
These will be updated very soon so that the statements are in line with their mission and are disassociated from the shock collar promoting company, Pet Safe. Now our community can use these position statements without reservations and conflicts of interest.
I would like to thank Dr. John Ciribassi and the Board of directors for making this expeditious and much-needed correction and disassociation from “Pet Safe.”
Dog Training and Pet Sitting Organisations Conflicts Of Interests APDT, AKC, NAPPS, IACP
As part of many boards and as a sponsor (monetarily and otherwise) to many organizations, I understand the nature of relationships and gratitude for others. However, I also am not naïve to organizations utilizing funds and support to further their business agendas that are often not aligned with my own. A strong ethical and moral compass are needed to thwart nefarious money and support from organizations not aligned with the ethos of one’s organization, regardless of how large the donation or power.
I fail to see the necessity of an ongoing relationship with any organization given the poignant conflict, mixed message, nature of hypocrisy and harm this could do to all animals and the organization touting this inclusivity in “teaching” abuse and pseudoscience perpetuate. The affiliation or association with the slightest impropriety is simply unacceptable and sends the wrong message.
It is imperative to lead by example and to maintain the rock-solid foundation and trust that organizations have earned over the years. This will allow an organization to continue being relevant and a present-day leader in the science of behavior and training, morals, and ethics that set the standard for our entire community. Compassion and respect are the antithesis of punition, shock collars, choke chains, pinch/prong collars, force, and fear. It is imperative that we are unified in our mission, voice, and message via clear, concise and consistent messages. Any waiver of that message could easily be misconstrued and only serve to bifurcate our community.
I will often hear the logical fallacy tu quoque in defense of shock collars or inclusivity. The argument against shock collars is an ethical and moral one. Therefore it is a red herring to bring up perceived training results. One must ask, “training results at the expense of who?” A “behaved” dog, when trained by a traditional dog trainer, is a dog that is listless, and emotionally damaged or exhibiting learned helplessness brought upon by fear, intimidation, pain, punishment. When you see a listless dog lay by a handler’s side, it would behoove oneself to be critical and investigate the methods that were used to achieve these results and not to romanticize them and use this perception as the rationalization for inclusivity. It is a moot point how “behaved” a dog appears to be. The central question an individual must ask oneself is, “does compassion and humane treatment trump results?” The answer couldn’t be any more salient and resounding – yes. It is never OK to abuse a dog. When dog training, expediency should never trump the humane, ethical treatment and welfare of your dog. The first rule, do no harm.
Maintaining vigilance on the ethical battle lines is a difficult task as boards change, new staff members, and visions all change. In gathering the opinions of my fellow fear-free veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers in the industry regarding their take on these matters, we agree that the continued support of the inclusivity mantra, punitive equipment, and inhumane training is confusing, tainted and associates an organization with punitive and abusive practices.
How will this hypocrisy and incongruence be rectified? We all eagerly await the outcome of this very disheartening and disconcerting quagmire that APDT, AKC, NAPPS, and IACP find themselves in.
“As long as we oppress other living beings we will create a culture of oppression.”
- Miller DM, Stats SR, Partlo BS, et al. Factors associated with the decision to surrender a pet to an animal shelter. J Am Vet Med
Assoc 1996;209:738- 742