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Code of Ethics

Code of Professional Ethics

Amended June 14, 2023

The Code of Professional Ethics sets forth the standards of conduct that members must adhere to professionally. Any member is subject to termination of membership, revocation of certification, and/or other disciplinary actions if they fail to abide by this code.

Principle I: Responsibility to Clients

1.1 Shall provide professional assistance to persons without discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, gender, health status, religion, political beliefs, national origin, or sexual orientation.
1.2 Shall comply with applicable laws regarding the reporting of animal bites and suspected abuse or neglect.
1.3 Shall respect the right of clients to make decisions regarding their pet’s management, training and care. Members are responsible for helping clients understand the potential consequences of those decisions.
1.4 Shall obtain informed consent from clients before videotaping, audio recording, or permitting third-party observation.
1.5 Shall obtain signed waivers, contracts or agreements prior to the start of services.
1.6 Shall ensure and oversee the safety of clients, animals and the public in implementing training and behavior programs.

Principle II: Confidentiality

2.1 Shall not share confidential information that could reasonably lead to the identification of a client, or prospective client, research participant, or other person with whom they have a confidential relationship, unless they have obtained the prior written consent of the client, research participant, or other person with whom they have a confidential relationship.
2.2 Shall keep accurate and complete records of all clients, their animals, services provided, and the conclusion of the services provided.
2.3 Shall provide referring veterinarians with professional feedback on services provided and training and/or behavior plans to improve continuity of care and ensure the collaborative relationship between health and training and/or behavior professionals.

Principle III: Professional Competence and Integrity

3.1 Shall work to minimize the use of aversive stimuli and maximize the effective use of positive reinforcement to modify animal behavior through a Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) based approach.
3.2 Shall maintain competence in training and behavior through continuing education.
3.3 Shall maintain adequate knowledge of, and adhere to, applicable laws, ethics, and professional standards.
3.4 Shall provide truthful advertising and representation concerning their qualifications, certifications, experience, performance, and pricing of services.
3.5 Shall refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training and behavior plans.
3.6 Shall provide full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to clients and other professionals.
3.7 Shall work within their professional education and individual expertise.
3.8 Shall seek help and education when confronted with complex or difficult cases, and refrain from taking cases beyond their professional experience.
3.9 Shall not advise on problems outside their recognized professional education and certifications and shall not provide advice or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless licensed and qualified to do so.
3.10 Shall not permit employees, subcontractors, or supervisees to perform or to hold themselves out as competent to perform professional services beyond their training, level of experience, and competence based on certification and education.
3.11 Shall exercise care when stating their professional recommendations and opinions through public statements.
3.12 If the member has employees and/or subcontractors, that member shall hold their employees, subcontractors, and mentees accountable for following the Joint Standards of Practice and Code of Professional Ethics during the course of the delivery of professional services on behalf of the member.

Principle IV: Responsibility to the Profession

4.1 Shall be respectful of colleagues and other professionals and shall not condemn the character of their professional acts, nor engage in public commentary, including commentary in public presentations, written media or on websites, internet discussion forums, or social media, that is disrespectful, derisive, or inflammatory. This includes cyberbullying, that is, the use of electronic media for deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior against colleagues.
4.2 Shall maintain adequate professional liability insurance coverage.

Principle V: Financial Arrangements & Truthful Representation of Services

5.1 Shall clearly disclose and explain to clients all financial arrangements and fees related to professional services prior to entering into a professional relationship.
5.2 Shall represent facts truthfully to clients, third party payors, and students regarding services rendered.

Principle VI: Advertising

6.1 Shall accurately represent their competencies, education, training, and experience relevant to their practice of training and/or behavior modification.
6.2 Shall not use titles that could mislead the public concerning the identity, responsibility, source, and status of those practicing under that name.
6.3 Shall correct, wherever possible, false, misleading, or inaccurate information and representations made by others concerning their qualifications, services, or products.
6.4 Shall not represent themselves as providing specialized services unless they have the appropriate education, training, or experience.
6.5 Shall refrain from making misrepresentations regarding marketing and logos for which they are no longer eligible and remove logos and claims of certification when no longer maintained.
6.6 Shall agree to use the most current logos and follow recommended usage of said marketing materials.
6.7 Shall not commit business fraud, plagiarism, copyright infringement, misuse or misappropriation of logos or trademarks, theft of intellectual property, slander, or libel.

Principle VII: Illegal Behavior

Effective January 1, 2024

7.1 Shall not be convicted of cruelty, abuse, or neglect of animals or humans, crimes against humanity, or of violence against animals or humans.
7.2 Shall not engage in cruelty, abuse, or neglect of animals or humans, crimes against humanity, or of violence against animals or humans.
7.3 Shall not be convicted of crimes directly related to the responsible party’s professional qualifications.
7.4 Shall not engage in gross misconduct directly related to the responsible party’s professional qualifications.

Principle VIII: Cooperation in Matters Related to Ethical Complaints

Effective January 1, 2024

8.1 Shall cooperate at all times from the inception of an ethical complaint through the completion of all proceedings regarding that complaint.
8.2 Shall not threaten or retaliate against any parties or witnesses to a good faith ethics complaint in which the [name of accountable party] is involved, both during the course of the complaint and after the completion of all proceedings.

Principal IX: Appeals

Effective January 1, 2024

9.1 Any member who wishes to appeal a termination or sanction may do so in accordance with the Organization’s complaint process and/or bylaws or other organizational documents.

Standards of Practice

Amended June 14, 2023

The Standards of Practice provide a framework of principles to convey a collective principle of professionalism, skills and values in positive reinforcement-based training. Each member will undertake the following:

  • 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 your services honestly
    • Treating animals and clients respectfully
    • Valuing and preserving the privacy of clients
    • Maintaining professionalism with colleagues and other professionals

APDT Procedures for Filing & Reviewing Ethics Complaints

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Board of Directors created a Code of Professional Ethics (COPE) that all members of the association must abide by. A copy of the COPE can be found at https://staging.apdt.com/about/code-professional-ethics/ All APDT members must uphold the highest industry standards by adhering to the terms outlined in the COPE as a condition of their membership. For those individuals that may not have upheld these standards, the APDT Board of Directors created this procedure to review potential violations of the COPE by current APDT members. An Ethics Committee has been appointed to work with the APDT Executive Director in reviewing complaints filed against individual APDT members through the online complaint form. Only those complaints filed through this online form will be considered for evaluation by the Ethics Committee. Email or other communications to the APDT Board or staff will not be taken under consideration by the Ethics Committee.

Information Requirements for Online Complaint Form

The individual filing the complaint must have the following information available in order to complete the online form:
-Name of the individual APDT Member
-Their company name
-The exact terms in the COPE that were potentially violated
-The date(s) of infraction(s)
-Evidence to support the infraction(s)

Incomplete complaint forms will not be processed and the individual submitting the complaint will be notified to provide the necessary information or the case will be dismissed.

APDT Ethics Complaint Form

Non-Valid Complaints

The APDT Ethics Committee will not review a complaint for any of the following reasons:
-Disputes of a financial nature
-Complaints that do not provide evidence of a violation of the COPE
-Complaints against individuals that are not or are no longer members of APDT
-Complaints without first-hand knowledge of the COPE violations and/or those requesting to remain anonymous in the complaint process

1 Prior results/decisions from disputes decided through another organization, court system, BBB, etc. that are directly related to the complaint may be submitted as evidence at the time of the complaint or at the time of a response from the APDT member.

Complaint Review

Once a completed complaint form is filed through the online form, the APDT Executive Director will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within two (2) business days.

The full complaint with supporting evidence will be provided to the Ethics Committee for their review. If the Ethics Committee has any questions on the complaint, they will notify the individual that filed the complaint requesting more information.

If all information is made available and/or questions have been responded to the Ethics Committee, the committee will determine if there is satisfactory evidence to proceed with the complaint or terminate the complaint.

Complaint Response

If the Ethics Committee review has determined that the complaint will continue, then the full complaint will be provided to the individual APDT member in question. That individual will have up to fifteen (15) business days to reply to the complaint, directly responding to each charged violation of the COPE along with evidence to support their position.

Based on their response, the Ethics Committee will determine if they have enough information to continue the complaint review or request additional information from the member providing the response.

If the member does not respond to the complaint within the fifteen (15) business days, then the Ethics Committee will provide a report to the Board of such inaction by the member. The Board, at their discretion, will make a decision that may include one of the following:
-extension to provide a response if a valid request was made by the member
-suspension of membership in APDT2
-removal of membership in APDT2
-expulsion of membership in APDT2

2 Terms outlined in the APDT Bylaws

Complaint Decision

The role of the Ethics Committee is to review the complaint and request information from the APDT member in response to the complaint. They will review all information in the complaint and from the APDT member response in order to come to a decision on the matter. If the committee requires additional information at any time from either party, they will make their request via email to the respective party with a response due in ten (10) business days.

The Ethics Committee will meet at a regularly scheduled meeting to decide the complaint once they believe that they have all the relevant and necessary information. The decision on the complaint must be approved by no less than 2/3 of the members of the committee. Once approved, the decision will be sent to the APDT Board of Directors for their review at the next scheduled meeting. Upon review of the Ethics Committee decision, the APDT Board of Directors, at their discretion, may decide any of the following:
-dismissal of the complaint
-specific continuing education for the APDT member related to the complaint
-suspension of membership in APDT3
-removal of membership in APDT3
-expulsion of membership in APDT3

3 Terms outlined in the APDT Bylaws

Once a decision is made by the APDT Board of Directors, only the member will be communicated with the decision via email and/or certified mail. The decision by the APDT Board of Directors is final.


All parties involved, including the individual filing the complaint, the APDT member and the members of the APDT Ethics Committee agree to keep all information regarding the complaint process and determination confidential. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
-keeping confidential all materials used in review of the complaint and all correspondence
-refraining from any comments regarding the case, each party and the APDT on social media, websites, blogs, chat pages, etc.
-keeping confidential the Ethics Committee’s determination

Any violation of confidentiality by either the person filing the complaint and/or the APDT member may result in the termination of the complaint or action by the Board against the APDT member.

Complaints Against Non-Members:

APDT has been made aware of situations in which non-members are using the APDT logo or other APDT intellectual property, or otherwise misrepresenting a connection with APDT. Because this situation is likely to arise again, it is advisable to have a consistent policy to address this situation.

The individuals involved in these situations are not members. Therefore, it is not appropriate to use APDT’s ethics complaint system. In order to protect APDT’s intellectual property and the value of membership, a consistent and timely response to these situations is vital. Previously, APDT’s response has been to send a “cease and desist” letter to these individuals. APDT believes that promptly sending a written communication is appropriate, but believes that it is more appropriate to first suggest that the individual become a member.

As of the Effective Date of this policy, when APDT is made aware of a situation in this category, the APDT staff will conduct initial fact finding to ascertain whether the individual is or has been a member. If the individual is not a member, the Executive Director will send a letter to the individual suggesting that the individual become a member, and that if the individual does not become a member, that they must immediately cease and desist using APDT’s logo and intellectual property. That written communication will have a time limit for how long the individual has to respond, and the staff will follow up to ascertain if the individual has either become a member or complied with the request to cease and desist. If the individual has not complied, the Executive Director shall send a second written communication to cease and desist.

Non-Member Complaint Form

LIMA-Based Complaints Against APDT Members:

In 2021, APDT is changing its policies to require Professional Members and Premium Professional Members to certify that they will adhere to LIMA principles. APDT anticipates that once this policy takes effect, it will receive complaints that some Professional Members and Premium Professional Members are not adhering to LIMA. It is appropriate to develop and implement a policy that addresses this situation in a consistent and constructive manner. APDT believes that these situations present an opportunity to educate and elevate its members, and the manner of handling these situations should reflect that. In particular, APDT believes that its normal ethics complaint process would typically not be the appropriate avenue to respond to these situations.

APDT will create a separate complaint form specifically for LIMA-based complaints, and all LIMA-based complaints shall be brought using this specific complaint form. As of the Effective Date of this policy, when APDT receives a LIMA-based complaint, APDT staff will initially determine (1) whether the complaint was brought using the specific LIMA-based complaint form; and (2) whether the member who is allegedly not compliant with LIMA is a Professional Member or Premium Professional Member who has renewed his or her membership under the new guidelines requiring the member to attest to being LIMA compliant. If the complaint was not brought using the specific LIMA-based complaint form, the staff will direct the individual filing the complaint to the correct form, and inform that individual that the APDT can act on the complaint only if the form is completed.

If a LIMA-based complaint is brought using the specific LIMA-based complaint form and the member is a Professional Member or Premium Professional Member who has attested to being LIMA compliant, the APDT Executive Director will conduct initial fact finding to ascertain the basis and merits of the complaint. If the complaint has merit, the Executive Director will advise the member in writing of the complaint and allow the member to respond to the allegation within a certain time frame. If the facts demonstrate that the member is not adhering to LIMA, the Executive Director shall forward the matter to the Ethics Committee to determine how to respond to the member. The Ethics Committee will draw upon the LIMA resources developed by the APDT Education Committee to craft an appropriate remedy and a reasonable amount of time for the member to comply. The Executive Director will communicate the Ethics Committee’s decision to the member. If the member is still non-compliant, the Ethics Committee shall make a proposal to the APDT Board, which may include suspension or termination of the member’s APDT membership. The APDT Board shall have the final say regarding the member’s APDT membership.

The only correspondence to the individual filing the complaint will be an acknowledgment of receiving the complaint.

Nothing in this policy would preclude use of APDT’s ethics complaint process in a situation involving particularly egregious facts (for instance, a meritorious complaint of animal abuse).

Member Complaint Form