A prospective student called recently and asked what I thought at the time to be a strange question. She wanted to know if I had ever been sued. To tell the truth, I was taken aback and hesitated a second before answering. That gave her just enough time, I guess, to ask me if I’d ever had to refund anyone’s money. I told her a quick “no” and “yes,” but then just had to ask her why she wanted to know. It turned out that she had had a rather bad experience with another school, paid them what she felt was a nice little sum, and ended up with an instructor who ran a terrible class. I did sign her up for my school, but it reminded me of some of the not-so-ethical trainers I have run into in my 30-plus years in this business.
Just a few years ago, I took one of my own dogs to a local community college for a basic class. To be honest, I just needed a place to get him out and work him around other dogs, so I wasn’t necessarily looking for stellar instruction, but the others in my class certainly deserved better than we got. This guy was not only a lousy trainer and instructor; he ran a poorly structured class where very little learning took place. Not only that, it was not a safe environment for any of us; there was one dog fight, and one lady actually got bit by another student’s dog. All but two of the students had dropped before the half-way point, and I don’t blame them. To top it all off, this instructor finally just stopped showing up. The sad thing is not only did the students not get their dogs trained, they most likely will never again try a training class because “it didn’t work.” This instructor did a good job at only one thing: making the profession look bad.
So what is the answer? Dog obedience instruction is no different from any other field. There will be excellent instructors, horrible instructors, and hopefully lots of good ones in between. Maybe we can’t regulate talent, but we should certainly be on the lookout for the downright unethical instructors. I used to think this group of trainers would just naturally put themselves out of business, but unfortunately, many of them continue on year after year.
When NADOI was founded over 41 years ago, it was the intent of that original small group of trainers that some effort be made to improve our profession by requiring all members to be screened and tested for competence in their ability to train and teach. They also knew high ethical standards of conduct needed to be required of each member. Out of that realization, the NADOI Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct was written and instituted. Here is the Preamble to that Code, and although the years have dated the language somewhat, the intent is still clear.
The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Inc. was founded to elevate the standards of the dog instructing profession. Mutually to aid both dog and human in the solution of the many problems of the profession, to designate members as having attained certain skills and knowledge, and acknowledging these facts, the members are pledged to maintain a high level of trust and integrity in the practice of their skill.
This Code of Ethics should not be recognized in passive observance, but as a set of dynamic principles guiding the members’ conduct and way of life in obedience instructing. It is the instructor’s duty to practice this profession according to this Code of Ethics.
As a member of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Incorporated, I shall remember that to my community and all with whom I come in contact in dog obedience work, I typify dog obedience. It is my duty to keep the ideal high. I will always strive to better the understanding of dog obedience, proving it a work and profession worthy of respect and admiration. Always will I advocate training by such methods that will keep the best interests of the dog, the handler, and the fancy in mind. I will work towards improved methods of instruction for all breeds of dogs. At all times in my association with people and my work with dogs I will conduct myself in a sportsmanlike manner, neither boasting if I win in the show ring, nor showing rancor toward my dog or toward the judge should I lose. At no time shall I display evil temper, either in the ring or while instructing. When handling my own dog or another’s dog, either in the show ring or while instructing, never will I conduct myself in such a manner that will bring discredit to this Association or the fancy, I will work to train persons as competent instructors for dog obedience training classes, and toward this end will always freely exchange ideas, methods, and techniques in connection with dog obedience instruction.