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Announcing a new Joint Standards of Practice for professional animal behavior consultants and trainers

We are incredibly proud to announce the agreement of a Standards of Practice across IAABC, APDT, and CCPDT. Through our unified Code of Ethics and LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) guidelines, we promote, as a norm and a fundamental tenet, positive reinforcement training, and giving a voice to our learners as well as our clients. Through consensus and mutual respect between organizations, we help move our field into the 21st century and elevate our field to the level of professionalism it deserves.


The leadership of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) are pleased to announce the adoption of a Standards of Practice, a unified code of conduct, and code of ethics.

Strong professional ethics, education, and expertise within our profession are crucial to the wellbeing of the animals and humans we serve. The Standards of Practice is a set of cross-association guiding principles that will allow practitioners to understand what it means to be a competent, ethical professional in our field, and offers recourse to those rightfully demanding excellence in the field.

These shared standards provide a framework of principles, professionalism, skills, and values in positive reinforcement-based training. As members/certificants, each individual will undertake the following as a condition of membership/certification:

  • To understand and promote Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) training and behavior work
  • To continue professional development by reading relevant material; attending conferences, workshops and seminars; and pursuing other educational opportunities
  • To review and understand source material and academic texts for information
  • To abstain from representing training and behavioral information as scientific, unless the information is derived from peer-reviewed and published research
  • To refrain from offering guarantees regarding the outcome of training and behavior work
  • To always maintain professionalism through:
    • Providing services honestly
    • Treating animals and clients respectfully
    • Valuing and preserving the privacy of clients
    • Maintaining professionalism with colleagues and other professionals.

More about LIMA

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 counterconditioning.

By defining LIMA, along with the Humane Hierarchy to refer to when struggling or frustrated in a training scenario, we provide a structure of ethical guidelines to avoid undue stress and discomfort to our human and animal learners. Use of LIMA shows trainers/behavior consultants how to avoid using punishment, instead of simply requiring that they do so without help in achieving that goal. We strongly feel that LIMA is the most in-depth, answerable, evidence-based set of applied guidelines for trainers and behavior consultants focusing on positive reinforcement-based behavior change.

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.