CODE OF ETHICS
Our goal is to enhance the lives of animals and relationships between humans and animals. We believe these goals must not be temporary, but rather sustainable. If anyone involved in activities or relationships gets victim, sustainability cannot be achieved.
We do not condone animal care and training that sacrifice someone, including animals. We believe that good animal care and good animal training require fair and safe relationships between animals, care givers, trainers and other animal professionals involved.
When we human ask animals to behave in ways we desire, we will make it to be beneficial for them as well. We strive to scientifically understand the discomfort and pain animals experience that may be difficult for humans to notice. We will never ignore, neglect, or increase their suffering.
We work on dispelling misunderstandings and unscientific assumptions made by humans about animals, and we provide safer and kinder care and training for animals using the knowledge and skills based on the science and strategies of behavior change with a focus on positive reinforcement and constructional approach.
We will continue learning about science, strategies, and skill sets we’ll use while teaching and caring for animals. We’ll work to use and maintain high ethical standards which will guide our choices in providing the best animal care possible. We believe that skills and knowledge alone are not enough, but rather we will aim to model and use the training behaviors and strategies we want to see employed in good animal care.
Clear and high ethical standards are necessary in trustworthy people to make the most appropriate choices for animals.
We are caregivers for animals in our care
We manage animals in our care recognizing that we, as a different species, have expectations for animals to be able to live in the society and with interactions which are convenient and comfortable for us. Sometimes what we ask of animals is not natural for the animal and can be uncomfortable or painful for them.
As often animals live with us in captivity or as companions by our choice, "animals deserve the best care we can possibly provide (Ken Ramirez)" and we should help them to live as safely and comfortably as possible.
We are caregivers. Our role is to provide good care for animals we are responsible for. This means we want to keep and improve upon their safety, physical, and mental well-being.
The Foundation of Animal Care Four Cornerstones
We support the “Four Cornerstones for the Foundation of Animal Care” which is an ethical guiding principle for providing good animal care advocated by Ken Ramirez. We embrace it as our standard when we consider, evaluate, design, and provide animal care plans.
The Four Cornerstones for the Foundation of Animal Care (Ken Ramirez)
- Physical Care - Veterinary program
- Nutrition - Food and vitamins
- Environment - Including social structure, contact, and interactions
- Behavioral Management - Training and enrichment
Behavioral management should be provided throughout the animal’s life to include a comprehensive veterinary and nutrition program.
The four cornerstones of good animal care have the same perspective as the 5 Domains Model employed in animal welfare assessments. The five domains are: (1) nutrition, (2) environment, (3) health, (4) behavior, and (5) mental state. The mental state, as the fifth domain, is influenced by the first four domains; thus, the assessment focuses on the factors of either negative or positive subjective experiences in the first four domains.
Behavioral management means “training and enrichment” (Ken Ramirez). It is an essential aspect of good animal care.
Enrichment is defined as changes and improvements to the environment which increase the animal’s behavioral choices and which allow the animal to exercise his abilities and skills. The goal is to enhance animal welfare.
"Training is not a luxury, but a key component to good animal care" (Ken Ramirez). "Training is about teaching a dog (or any animal) how to live in our world safely” (Ken Ramirez). “We help animals control their own behaviors well” (Susan Friedman, Ph. D.).
Our training purpose is to minimize the animal’s stress and to maximize the animal’s relaxation. We can observe if the animal behaves in a relaxed way.
We break training into three components: management, teaching, and maintenance. We design plans for each component and use enrichment in order to make a stimuli and desirable behavior equate to a good thing for the animal. This way we set up the animal for success.
“Success” here means that the animal gets good results via their behavior.
Three Components of Animal Training
- Management - Designing and providing the environment to make it easier to perform desirable behaviors (target behaviors) and to make it more difficult to perform undesirable behaviors (behaviors other than the target behavior).
- Teaching - Designing and providing the environment to help to shape behavior and allow the animal to perform desirable behaviors (target behaviors).
- Maintenance - Designing and providing the environment to maintain desirable behaviors the animal has learned (target behaviors).
Primary Reasons for Animal Training
We support the “Primary Reasons for (Animal) Training and Secondary Reasons for (Animal) Training” which are ethical guiding principles for providing good animal training and advocated by Ken Ramirez. We embrace it as our standard when we consider, evaluate, design, and provide animal training.
Primary Reasons for (Animal) Training (Ken Ramirez)
- Physical Exercise
- Mental Stimulation
- Cooperative Behavior
Secondary Reasons for (Animal) Training (Ken Ramirez)
- Working Animals
“If the secondary reasons become primary reasons, animal welfare may be endangered.
If the primary reasons are accomplished, animals can be happier, healthier, and more willing to work with their trainers so that training becomes easier and trainers have done their work well” (Ken Ramirez).
Cooperative behavior makes it comfortable for animals to work on and participate in management, handling, and care for safety and physical health resulting in safer and more comfortable interactions.
We support the “Constructional Approach” to behavioral modification which was first formally recognized by Israel Goldiamond, Ph.D. in 1974. We embrace it as our approach when we design and provide animal training and behavioral intervention plans.
The constructional approach is an alternative model to the pathological (eliminative) approach. The pathological (eliminative) approach focuses on eliminating problem behaviors. The constructional approach attempts to solve problems by building behavioral repertoires.
The constructional approach consist of four steps.
- What behavior do you want to get? - Decide target behavior
- What behavior can the learner/animal perform? - Decide the behavior from which you shape in the learner’s/animal’s repertoire (the behaviors which the learner/animal can perform now)
- How do you change the current repertoire to target behavior? - Decide criteria/steps
- What keeps the learner/animal learning and working on performing target behavior? - Decide which reinforcers help the learner/animal be willing to join your training and to make the target behavior continue
We can customize a training and behavioral intervention plan to an individual learner/animal, the learner’s/animal’s condition and experience, and the situation at the time by using the constructional approach not only when we design training and behavioral plans but also before we start the training session.
By basing our plan on the constructional approach, we can reinforce at the beginning of our training because the first criterion is the behavior the learner/animal can perform at the start. We will focus on positive reinforcement, antecedent arrangement and appropriate setting and adjusting criteria to provide errorless training and shape target behaviors. “Criterion/criteria” here means the behavior we provide positive reinforcer immediately after it is performed.
Behavior is an important asset for the one who performs it
Behavior is a tool for coping with a problem one is facing. Performed behavior is an important asset for surviving and coping with problems. The more tools/repertoire one has, the easier and more comfortable he is to live and survive.
We can help to shape and increase the number of tools of the animals in our care with our choices in management, interaction, and training.
Our purpose is to provide care and training which enhance the lives of animals in our care by increasing the learner’s/animal’s repertoire. By teaching animals alternative behaviors for problem solving we help them live more comfortably and confidently.
We don’t label animals and behaviors. We don’t judge the cause of behavior via personal feelings and impressions without research and evidence. We understand behavior based on behavior analysis.
When we work on behavior modification, we collect data and evidence, analyze the relationships between behavior and environments, and assess what is the environment that makes the problem behavior necessary and what is its function. This procedure is necessary in order to understand the animal’s experience without bias.
Also we rule out potential physical health and nutritional problems with a veterinarian and research the animal’s environment, daily schedule of activity and rest, relationships and interactions with people and animals. In this way we work to understand the animal's needs and the problem which the animal is facing.
Hierarchy of Behavioral Change Procedure - Most Positive, Least Intrusive Effective Intervention
We support the “Hierarchy of Behavior-change Procedure - Most Positive, Least Intrusive Effective Intervention” which is an ethical guiding principle for providing good animal training and advocated by Susan Friedman, Ph.D.. We embrace it as our standard when we consider, evaluate, and implement the strategy of behavior change.
Behavior is response to environment. We can’t control behavior directly but we can change behavior by controlling environment which can affect the behavior.
Behavior intervention refers to changing the environment in order to change behavior. Using the least intrusive method means we use the least forceful tools and provide the learner with the power to control their environment/choices.
This hierarchy can help you to use the most positive and least intrusive strategies for interactions.
Undesirable behaviors are like SOS signals from the animals. Those indicate that the animals are placed in problematic environments. They are facing some problems which difficult to cope with and they need help.
We will change behaviors by changing its environments. If “problem behavior" happens, both the animals and the people nearby (caregivers) need to change something and learn new things.
When undesirable behavior happens, we find the causes to necessitate and maintain the behavior in environment, and resolve or improve them. We will prevent undesirable behavior from happening in the first place, shape desirable behavior, and replace undesirable behavior with desirable behavior.
Behavior has the potential to be reinforced when executed. Moreover, the more it is repeated, the more skilled and easier it becomes to be performed. Preventing undesirable behavior from being repeated is the most important and highest priority thing we should do.
However, management that provides an environment that makes it difficult to perform undesirable behavior may further limit the animals' access to activities and stimuli. This can reduce opportunities for mental stimulation, physical activity, and reinforcement, leading to a decline in the animal's quality of life.
When increasing or changing management, we will select and provide appropriate enrichment to prevent reducing opportunities for mental stimulation, physical activity, and reinforcement, or to increase them in order to either maintain or enhance the animal's quality of life.
The redesign of management and enrichment take precedence over teaching new behavior. Therefore, the order of addressing problematic behavior is as follows.
- Collecting information and data
- Functional Assessment
- Confirm, improve, and ensure the animal's physical health and nutritional status (physical health and nutrition improvement and assurance).
- Identify and reduce or eliminate stressors affecting the animal, ensuring sufficient rest (improving overall living environment).
- Arrange antecedent events to prevent undesirable behavior from occurring (behavior management - management).
- Provide opportunities for mental stimulation, physical activity, and reinforcement (behavior management - enrichment).
- Select and shape desirable behavior which the animal performs instead of the undesirable behavior (behavior management - teaching).
- Provide an environment that maintains and increases desirable behavior (behavior management - maintenance).
We will make sure what the care givers can do and what they can't do then design realistic plans that are achievable for both the animal and the caregiver. We also support the care givers to improve knowledge and skills in behavior and behavioral management in animal care.
When providing care and training services, we will always prioritize the safety of all people and animals involved. This applies not only to physical safety but also to psychological safety, including our own.
We actively utilize protected contact and semi-protected contact to create a safe training environment for both animals and people.
Aversive Stimuli Handling
There are situations when we have to handle aversive stimuli or potentially aversive stimuli in the training environment, such as when training to change an animal's emotional response or behavior to stimuli that cause fear or anxiety. We will handle such stimuli and decide what to do according to the following criteria to achieve the maximum training effect while minimizing the animal's suffering:
- The use of aversive stimuli or potentially aversive stimuli in training is limited to cases where there are no other options or where using that stimulus is overwhelmingly more effective in eliciting the desired behavior than other methods. Also we have to develop a plan to change the stimulus to one that the animal predicts something good will happen or one that the animal can easily ignore.
- Ensure that the stimulus level is kept to the minimum necessary to produce the target behavior or new learning. This level should not cause new negative emotional responses through classical conditioning to other stimuli, and the animal should be able to relax and focus on things other than the stimulus.
- Conduct training in an environment where the animal can always distance himself from the stimulus anytime he wants or can break its involvement with the stimulus.
- Provide abundant reinforcers.
- Keep the time spent with the aversive stimulus extremely short in both daily life and training sessions (e.g., during a 60-minute training lesson, the time spent with the aversive stimulus should be less than 5 minutes. Avoid contact with the aversive stimulus during normal life).
- Provide a training session environment and living environment where there are overwhelmingly more opportunities for positive reinforcement than exposure to the aversive stimulus.
- Always carefully observe the animal's behavior, including his body language. If discomfort is indicated through body language (continued or increased stress signals) or behavior (escape or avoidance behavior, increased latency of behavior, or reduced speed of behavior), immediately end the use of the stimulus or the training session. Review and adjust the stimulus level (distance, intensity, number, duration (exposure time length)), and other environmental factors, as well as the behavior management or teaching plan if necessary. Do not resume the training session immediately; leave some time in between, preferably a few days.
We don’t overestimate our own abilities
We understand the danger in overestimating one’s skills, confidence, and knowledge and recognize the need to continue to learn and grow and choose the least intrusive, most positive approaches to ensure the safety and welfare of animals in our care.
If the plan we design using antecedent arrangement and positive reinforcement struggles to help shape the target behavior, we revise our plan and do following things prior to using more intrusive strategy of differential reinforcement of alternative behavior or extinction.
- Investigate the physical health and nutritional conditions again
- Double check to see if we may have overlooked something in the collected data and analysis, verify if we could improve something in our behavioral management plan or the environment including our own behaviors and skills
- Consider other ideas and approaches using antecedent arrangements and positive reinforcement strategies
- Ask other professionals who have the same level of knowledge, ethics, and teaching skills using positive reinforcement for help and advice
If the case is beyond the scope of our own knowledge and skills we will consult with other professionals with the same skills and ethics.
We keep looking for better alternatives
Everyone has room for improvement. We can only find better alternatives when we look for them. We will continue learning and looking for better alternatives.
If the approaches, ways, strategies, tools and skills we have found are scientifically, practically, and ethically intelligent, kinder to the animals, and easily comprehensive for the animal, we incorporate them into our skill set.
We will keep providing better animal care and training by endeavoring to continue our own professional learning and improvement.
BAW Certificate Practitioner
In cases where a BAW certified practitioner is suspected of actions that violate this code of ethics (ethical standards), BAWedu, Inc. conducts investigations. If a violation of code of ethics (ethical standards) becomes apparent, BAWedu, Inc. will revoke the person's certification and will seek compensation for damages if the trust of BAW ACADEMY, BAWedu, Inc. and other BAW certificate practitioners has been damaged by the person's actions.
Special thanks go to Terrie Hayward for her support as a native checker on original code of ethics.
Updated: April 16, 2023 for ensuring the highest level of care and commitment to animals