This paper was written in May 2017 for a class on animal ethics that I took during my anthrozoology studies at Canisius College. It may not reflect the most recent information, but it does include some valuable resources and insight I wanted to share given recent events in my area.
Currently in the United States, the dog training industry is largely unregulated: anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and charge for training services (Barry, 2008; Kaminsky, 2016). This unfortunate reality results in dogs and their guardians receiving potentially life-threatening misinformation, particularly in cases of aggression. Similarly, this also results in dog trainers who use training methods that can cause negative dog welfare. In late 2016, a self-proclaimed dog trainer on Long Island, N.Y. was caught on video abusing a client’s dog that was in his care (Goldberg, 2016). This did result in a New York State Senator, Todd Kaminsky, proposing a bill to require licensing for dog trainers. The bill has yet to be passed.
In this paper, I will draw from multiple disciplines to explore the ethics of dog training, particularly looking at different dog training methods as well as the necessary interplay of science and ethics in the dog training industry. Ethologist Marc Bekoff (2006) discusses “the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation” (p. 471), and I believe this applies to this topic as well as any. Additionally, I will examine the need for a standardized professional code of ethics for dog trainers and behavior consultants, specifically analyzing the ethical codes of various professional associations.