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  • Writer's pictureNICE

What Are Canine Ethics & Why Do They Matter?

We all know what a canine is, but what are canine ethics?

Ethics are moral principles that govern our behaviour when carrying out an activity.

Moral principles are determined by our beliefs and how we have learned as we grow into the people, we are to become. To be immoral, we make decisions that purposely violate morality. Everyone has slightly different moral principles, which is why some dog trainers believe it’s ok to use shock collars when teaching dogs, while others recognise it as immoral.

The crux of the matter is, with the absence of formal regulation of methods, should personal moral principles determine the delivery of professional dog training and behaviour?

Or should there be a single set of ethics that all professional dog trainers and behaviourists should adhere to – like doctors, teachers and veterinarians?

Yes, of course, there should be.

Children are protected in schools from being punished with a cane in the present day, and rightfully so. Physical punishment creates suppressed students, and the authority of teaching regulation has changed. Ethical standards must be adhered to in schools; teachers must follow a set of high moral guidelines to teach children.

Yet dogs have no such protection.

Dogs are exposed to people with moral principles that are shabby or that don’t exist at all. Dog training ideas have been learned by people around them. They don’t have to be facts; they don’t have to be based on science or peer-reviewed; they are just a bundle of things learned by the person who owns them. And nobody is monitoring this.

Despite science telling us increasingly regularly that hands-on, force-based, and punitive methods are damaging to dogs, physically and emotionally, we still see unskilled dog training. Dogs still experience injuries from nasty tools. Dogs are still pulled around and bullied in the name of dog training.

Canine ethics are a set of moral guidelines for dog professionals.

Canine ethics are guidelines created only on knowledge, facts and studies. We can consider them a professional code of conduct that monitors and improves canine welfare.

When we work within canine ethics, we commit to never purposely harming dogs and ensure that our moral principles align with a code of ethics, which in turn aligns with the current science of canine welfare.

And until regulation is firmly in place for dog training and behaviour, we must manage ourselves, so let’s work together to be the best we can be for dogs and their people.

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