The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and its membership hold themselves accountable to a high standard of ethics, protocols and transparency. Since its inception in 2012, PPG has been unwavering and unequivocal about where it stands on equipment philosophy and training methods for pets. As such, its members are committed to the use, promotion and education of humane, scientific and effective training, care and management protocols, as espoused in PPG’s Guiding Principles (2012). While PPG has taken an exclusively force-free approach and a promise to “do no harm,” it also recognizes that no definition can be so expansive and explicit that every possible situation is addressed. This applies universally, perhaps most obviously in the US legal system, where very often courts cannot agree on a single interpretation of what terms and definitions mean, including physical force. PPG considers, then, both in the context of its Guiding Principles and as a general framework, physical force to mean any intentional physical act against a pet that causes psychological or physical pain, harm or damage. (Pet Professional Guild, 2019).
PPG’s Guiding Principles are “specific, measurable and forward thinking and provide a clear way ahead for the industry while supporting professional autonomy and without sacrificing unambiguous ethical guidelines. In a business environment where certifications are rife and new associations emerge annually, it is critical that professional organizations representing professionals do so to the benefit of the professional, the client, and the industry as a whole, not just in the interests of the singular organization.” (Tudge & Nilson, 2019).
Shaping the Industry
PPG’s key goal is to drive and bring about change in the Pet Services Industry, specifically the fields of training, behavior consulting and pet care. The sought-after change promotes scientific, humane and positive reinforcement-based methods and skill application in order to reach training, behavior modification, and pet care goals for pets and their owners.
To enact, promote and mange this scope of change, PPG needs to be at the forefront of shaping the industry. This means, as an organization, it must help guide, manage and, when necessary, reinforce small approximations of cultural shifts, behavior change or attitude adjustments towards the end goal when organizations, associations and individuals who are operating within the industry present them. Isolationist views, public criticism and punitive behavior aimed at those who choose differently are considered both unprofessional and counterproductive to PPG’s long-term goals. As outlined in its Mission, Vision and Values statement, which forms part of the Guiding Principles, PPG ensures that “all communications are professional and based on fact. When discussing industry practices, trends or issues, members will limit discussion to practices and consequences rather than the individuals using them thereby ensuring informed, professional and civil exchanges that enrich members and the industry of force-free pet professionals.” (Pet Professional Guild, 2012).
When PPG was officially inaugurated in January 2012, founder and president Niki Tudge carefully crafted its Key Charter document to outline four key purposes:
1. To serve the Pet Industry and act as an educational antidote to the scientifically unfounded and potentially dangerous methods and practices popularized by reality television and certain well-known personalities.
2. To be a source of information where pet owners and professionals who are committed to the use of scientific, humane and positive reinforcement-based methods could share ideas, exchange best practices, continue their education, collaborate on efforts and find resources.
3. To be an educational resource that would clarify the differences in the training and pet care methodologies available and where a pet owner could be confident that the information, services and products offered were at the forefront of both science and ethics.
4. To establish a vehicle that would help further the cause and help educate local governments, pet professionals and the pet-owning community of the fundamental advantages of force-free training and pet care.
Through this Key Charter document, PPG members are encouraged to focus on:
- Building a personal organization like an extended family, a place where everyone shares a part of themselves as well as their knowledge, skills and talents.
- Encouraging a dynamic organization full of entrepreneurial ideas that can be shared among members as best practices.
- Building an organization that is held together by a glue comprising loyalty, respect for fellow members and mutual trust.
- Shaping a collaborative model that exemplifies open, honest and nonaggressive communication both within the organization and to those who have not yet joined us.
If PPG is to meet the challenge of its Key Charter (2012), specifically in terms of emphasizing a “collaboration among force-free pet trainers and pet care providers” and advocating for “mutually agreed guiding principles for the pet care industry,” then the membership body must lead by example in each and every one of its interactions – be they with clients, fellow members or the pet industry at large.
Education can only be affected if, through these individual actions and high standards of conduct and performance, PPG can influence how the pet industry evolves. PPG will only be able to engage others to join the quest for improved standards if education can take place regarding industry science, practice, philosophy and skill application. There is no place for an uneducated but so-called commonsense approach; common sense is not grounded in science and is often “little more than a social record of folk wisdom, clichés and homilies about behavior. Common sense maintains the status quo so we continue to do what we know best rather than seeking out the best we can do.” (Friedman, 2004).
PPG and the Pet Industry as a whole need to encourage agents of change, or “Change Masters,” a term coined by Kanter (1983), who states that “people and organizations adept at the art of anticipating the need for, and of leading, productive change.” If we prepare and anticipate for the future, then, as Change Masters, we can have a positive and educational impact on the Pet Industry and influence the actions and intentions of others. Change can happen quickly, yet, when motivating, managing and shaping change across a large body, it can also appear painfully slow.
Nevertheless, through effective educational programs and a constructive, impactful and influential communication vehicle, PPG can create a shared vision for the future of the Pet Industry. As an organization, it can help find strategic solutions in a rapidly changing operating environment to support the business practices of its membership. Effective education programs can help narrow the disparities in knowledge and skill competency across industry professionals, which are often a reason for said professionals to resist change and embrace new philosophies. Influential communication can support a reduction in industry fragmentation while accelerating the circulation of educational resources. Indeed, it is through impactful education that we can create a sense of purpose and equip professionals with the tools and resources they need, not only to shape their own lives in terms of the services they offer in their businesses, but the lives of pets and their owners too.
Since its inauguration, PPG has worked diligently to form a coalition of schooled professionals who practice a humane, science-based methodology to support its Key Charter and help build the organization so its goals can be achieved. PPG holds that its Guiding Principles must be consistently and professionally communicated so that scientific principles, factual education and effective ethics can be presented in a manner that is not stifled by emotional bias and unreasonableness. As such, PPG is committed to supporting organizations, groups, industry bodies and associations that seek change and also to reaching those who have not yet determined change is a priority. In this manner, PPG can focus on enacting systems that reinforce those who seek collaboration and who are open to education and networking.
PPG values an inclusionary approach, so it can provide affordable education and networking opportunities. This approach also includes a provisional membership option to address the need for open dialogue amongst practitioners and create a framework for future members. Further, PPG sets forth that an individual trainer’s choice of methods and equipment has a direct correlation to their skills and knowledge, meaning that, the more skilled the trainer, the less they will rely on aversive tools and techniques due to their professional competence in the requisite knowledge and skills (Pet Professional Guild, 2019).
The success of PPG’s Key Charter, Guiding Principles and educational programs, resources and message rely on the organization’s ability to remain credible and influential. To be effective with its messaging, PPG recognizes that its audience will, broadly speaking, use three criteria to determine whether to respond to its communications, as per Reardon’s ACE theory (de Janasz, O’Dowd & Schneider, 2002); research indicates that verbal and rational influences, which are more effective than emotive messages, focus heavily on appropriateness, consistency and effectiveness of the relevant proposed ideas and actions, i.e.:
a) The appropriateness of the message, how the is message delivered, and in what context.
b) The consistency of the message and how much sense it makes.
c) The effectiveness of the message, i.e. does it impact a desirable outcome? (de Janasz et al., 2002).
PPG believes strongly in the principles and values that form its foundation. As such, the organization contends that it has, and will continue to have, influence on the evolution of the Pet Industry as well as bring about change through educational programs and advocacy initiatives such as BARKS from the Guild, Pet Dog Ambassador, Shock-Free Coalition, Project Trade, Pet Professional Accreditation Board, PPG Educational Committees, Educational Resources for members, and Annual Summits and Workshops. PPG is bringing about change and will continue to do so if, when engaging and educating industry professionals, it knows and recognizes its audience and how best to educate, influence and network with them to meet the larger and more critical goal. Through a productive understanding of its audience, PPG is better able to communicate in an impactful manner.
In all its communications, PPG aims to present facts, data and logic given that overly passionate, doctrinaire and emotional demands risk scorching the potential to reach and influence others. As such, PPG seeks to carefully review its propositions before presenting them publicly to ensure credibility is maintained and that the message is not negatively impacted. As outlined in its Guiding Principles, PPG is committed to practicing appropriate, respectful and courteous communication, particularly in this era of social media. PPG continually strives to be structured and thoughtful in terms of how the written word is perceived to ensure audiences remain receptive to its educational message. In individual communication and behavior, too, PPG endeavors to promote the philosophy of being kind, factful, informative, educational, humane, scientific and effective at all times.
Finally, PPG recognizes that to request any third party to cease, desist, or drop what has previously been a normal way of doing business, it must first provide feasible and sustainable alternatives and/or options. In “Behavior Speak,” to promote behavior change, then, we, as an organization, must strive to provide access to reinforcement via a different route and, from there, help and support any implemented or prospective plans. By targeting one behavior for extinction while we positively build and reinforce a more appropriate alternative, we can thus reduce frustration and set up all parties for success by developing a collaborative network of industry partners and supporters.
De Janasz, S.C., O’Dowd, K., & Schneider, B.Z. (2002). Interpersonal Skills in Organizations. New York, NY: McGraw Hill
Friedman, S. (2004, November). Straight Talk about Parrot Behavior. Stop PDD Conference. Retrieved October 17, 2019, from https://behaviorworks.org/files/articles/Straight%20Talk%20About%20Behavior.pdf
Kanter, R. M. (1983). The Change Masters. Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the American Corporation. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Guiding Principles. Retrieved October 17, 2019, from https://petprofessionalguild.com/PPGs-Guiding-Principles
Pet Professional Guild. (2012). Key Charter. Retrieved October 17, 2019, from https://www.petprofessionalguild.com/Key-Charter
Pet Professional Guild. (2019). Pet Professional Guild Response to Joint Industry Code of Conduct. Retrieved October 17, 2019, from https://petprofessionalguild.com/Pet-Professional-Guild-Response-To-Joint-Industry-Code-of-Conduct
Tudge, N.J., & Nilson, S.J. (2019). The Case for Scientifically-Informed, Kind Practices. BARKS from the Guild (34) 18-26. Retrieved October 17, 2019, from https://issuu.com/petprofessionalguild/docs/bftg_january_2019_online_edition_op/18
BARKS from the Guild: https://barksfromtheguild.com
Pet Dog Ambassador: https://www.petdogambassador.com
Pet Professional Accreditation Board: https://www.credentialingboard.com
Project Trade: https://petprofessionalguild.com/Project-Trade
Shock-Free Coalition: https://www.shockfree.org