Code of Practice

The Gundog Trainers Academy (GTA) Code of Practice sets out to establish and maintain the minimum standards for conduct with which members are required to comply.  

Members agree to accept and abide by this code and are required to sign a Code of Practice statement upon acceptance of membership to the Academy.  Students of the Academy and its education partners must also agree to comply with the spirit of the Code of Practice for the duration of their study and assessment procedures.  

Any complaints or disciplinary matters of Academy members will be guided by the Code of Practice. Mention, or lack of mention, in the Code of a particular act or other omission will not be taken as conclusive on any question of professional conduct.  

1. General

1.1. A member of The Gundog Trainers Academy is defined as either GTA-Ad or GTA-Ag. 'Ad' means Accredited on Dummies and 'Ag' is more advanced and means Accredited on Game. This is made clear on the GTA website and is intended to assist potential clients as to the level of knowledge and experience accredited to the member. A GTA member has expertise in dog training learning theory and the practical application of that learning theory, plus a broad range of knowledge and skills relating to dogs, in particular to gundogs. They will be familiar with game shooting in the UK and the rules and regulations therein. They will have a basic understanding of the Kennel Club J regulations and how Gundog Working Tests, Field Trials and Working Gundog Certificates are run. They will be conversant with teaching the Gundog Club Field Tests (up to Grade 3 for GTA-Ad and up to Grade 5 for GTA-Ag) for each of the breed types. They will require a good understanding of current dog law and the Animal Welfare Act and current legislation. They will be familiar with and competent to use equipment and training aids including starter pistols, dummy launchers, etc., and will be able to demonstrate correct application of health and safety and understanding of risk assessment. Coaching skills, people skills, class organisation and lesson planning will also be assessed. GTA accredited members will be referred to as member(s) from hereon.  

1.2. Members will have acquired training and experience in dog training and gundog training to an appropriate and approved level corresponding with their membership.

1.3. Members are expected to keep their professional knowledge, and personal and practical skills up to date, by regularly undertaking suitable Continuing Professional Development (CPD), as well as providing evidence of ongoing CPD when required to do so by the Academy.  

2. Ethics 

2.1. Members and students working towards their assessment shall conduct themselves and uphold the highest professional and ethical standards and in a manner that does not bring the GTA or the dog training profession into disrepute. Students will be required to sign a Student Code of Practice upon commencement their studies.

2.2. Members will act responsibly, and demonstrate integrity, respect and impartiality to their clients, the general public, veterinary personnel, and other canine professionals.

2.3. Members will refrain from giving advice and acting in a way that would knowingly cause harm, psychological and/or physical distress, damage, or injury to any person or dog.

Specifically, members will:

• Refrain from acting impolitely or disrespectfully towards persons or dogs in receipt of their services.

• Refrain from using confrontation, force, rough handling, bullying, intimidation or coercion whether verbally or physically, towards persons or dogs in receipt of their services.

• Refrain from using punitive and/or non-scientifically backed methods and techniques.

• Where a technique is non-coercive and positive but experimental, the client should be made aware of this and given a rationale as to why it is being used as an alternative to a scientifically supported technique.

• Refrain from using any article listed in Appendix 1.

• Any training method and/or equipment recommended, promoted, used or sold by members will be consistent with the principles of positive and non-coercive training.  

2.4. Members will comply with their legal obligations; and the interest, welfare and safety of their clients and dog(s), or any other person(s) engaging their services will be paramount at all times.  

2.5. Members will maintain professional relationships with their clients, and refrain from exploiting such relationships for inappropriate professional, personal, or financial gain. Members will refrain from imposing their own values on clients.  

2.6. Members will refrain from attracting business unprofessionally, unethically or unfairly.
2.7. Members recognise that the Academy has invested considerable amounts of time and resources in creating the content taught on both the Teachers and Handlers courses. We respectfully ask that you don’t publicly distribute any GTA content without prior written permission from one of the directors. Any unauthorised distribution of content or plagiarism without credit may result in a fine of up to £100,000.

2.8. As ethical trainers, members will always try to give credit to the relevant people and organisations from which they have learnt methods, exercises, games, drills and techniques. This includes anything members may have learnt as a GTA student on the Teachers and/or Handlers courses.

3. Practice

3.1. Members will refrain from claiming, directly or indirectly, qualifications or affiliations they do not possess and from claiming competence on any aspect of dog training and/or canine behaviour in which they have not established their proficiency.  

3.2. Members will respect the views, independence and free will of others and refrain from publicly disparaging individuals, opinions, or conduct.  

3.3. Members will maintain and further develop their professional competence and proficiency and continually work to improve their knowledge and practical skills.  

3.4. Members will recognise the limit of their knowledge and skills, and when faced with an issue beyond the scope of their ability, will refer to a qualified and accredited canine trainer or behaviourist where necessary.  

3.5. Members will refrain from making untrue, unrealistic, unjustifiable, exaggerated, and misleading claims likely to encourage unrealistic expectations, about their knowledge, skills, and the effectiveness of their methods or products either personally or via promotion and advertising.  

3.6. It should be made clear whenever members are expressing a personal opinion and/or unsubstantiated theories that they should be stated as such.  

4. Conduct

4.1. Members will conduct themselves in their professional endeavours in a way that does not damage those in receipt of their services, and does not undermine public confidence in their ability or that of other dog trainers and other animal professionals.  

4.2. Members will not attempt to secure or to accept any significant financial or material benefit beyond that which has been contractually agreed from those in receipt of their services.  

4.3. Members should not allow their professional responsibilities or standards of practice to be affected or compromised by issues of religion, sex, race, age, nationality, party politics, social standing, class, self-interest or other unrelated factors.  

4.4. Members will refrain from practice when physically or psychologically unfit to do so.

4.5. Members will ensure the safety and well-being of those in receipt of their services at all times during training procedures and while using equipment.  

5. Consent and Confidentiality

5.1. Members will maintain adequate records and take reasonable steps to preserve the confidentiality of information acquired through their professional affairs, and to protect the privacy of individuals or organisations whose information is collected or held. In general, and according to the law, will prevent the identity of individuals or organisations being revealed, deliberately or inadvertently, without their express permission.  

5.2. Members will only make audio, video, or photographic recordings of recipients of services with the agreement of those being recorded, both to the actual recording and to the subsequent access to it by others.  

5.3 Members will take all necessary steps to ensure that colleagues, staff, trainees and students with whom they work understand and respect the need for confidentiality regarding any information obtained.  

6. Membership

6.1. Only current full members, i.e. those who have undergone GTA’s assessment process and successfully passed, are permitted to use the letters ‘GTA’ (the relevant suffixes) when representing themselves.  

6.2. Only full members are entitled to use the GTA logo in conjunction with their name. The logo may only be used in conjunction with the member’s name and/or details.  

6.3. Any person who is not a full member, found using the term or logo, would lead to the seeking of an injunction or to other legal steps being taken to restrain the person concerned from misleadingly representing themselves.  

6.4. GTA accredited members will ensure that GTA membership is exclusively for their individual use and will not be used to endorse the activities of any other club, society or organisation they may belong to, and that promotional and advertising material refrains from suggesting or implying endorsement by the Academy.  

6.5. GTA Accredited members who employ assistants, helpers or volunteers who are not GTA members, are responsible for their behaviour towards clients and their dog(s) and must ensure they carry themselves responsibly and conform with the Code of Practice.  

6.6. Members may be subject to random checks, at any given time. The Academy will make every effort to give fair notice of any checks.  

7. Liability

7.1. GTA Members must maintain an appropriate level of public liability and professional indemnity insurance.  

8. Complaints

8.1. The Academy shall advise on all matters of conduct of members and any complaint or dispute shall be dealt with by reference to the Code of Practice.  

8.2. Membership will be terminated immediately if a member is found to have caused suffering and/or injury, and/or found guilty of cruelty or other crime(s) towards an animal(s).  

9. Amendments

9.1. This code may be amended by the Academy at any time provided that the proposed alteration is notified to all members, their comments requested and duly considered.

10. Monitoring

10.1. Members will be required to provide their website address and a copy (electronic or hard copy) of all promotional material. There will be a provision for this on the membership renewal form and these will need to be submitted each year. A GTA administrator will spot check website content.  

10.2. Members will be asked to state that their GTA membership requires them to adhere to the GTA Code of Practice. The member can either publish a copy of the GTA Code of Practice on their website or add a hyperlink linking the GTA Code of Practice to the GTA website.

Appendix 1

The use of the following articles and/or methods/techniques is strictly prohibited by The Gundog Trainers Academy:  

Prohibited Articles:

• Prong or spike collars

• Check/choke chains or half-check/choke chains

• Electric shock, or high frequency sound or buzzing devices which apply an aversive stimulus such as pain or startle.

• Spray collars of any kind, whether remote-controlled, automatic, and citronella or water-based or other.

• Tightening harnesses, i.e. harnesses that tighten around the chest or abdomen when a dog pulls.

• Cloth or mesh muzzle, or any muzzle that restricts breathing and/or panting (only safe basket muzzles should be used when necessary).

• Pet Corrector, Dog Stop or similar devices (sonic devices which release pressurised air, citronella spray or other).

• Anti-bark collars of any type.

• Training discs, or any similar training item designed to startle and interrupt.

• Any type of water or liquid spray, e.g. citronella.

• Any commercial or home-made device emitting a loud noise e.g. rattle cans or bottles containing stones.

• The throwing of keys, chains, sticks, or any other item.

• Strong olfactory repellent substances, e.g. smelling salts, bite back, chilli (or other capsaicin containing substance), pepper, lemon, etc. 

• Any other device, training aid or piece of equipment the Academy deems inappropriate or unethical.

Prohibited Methods:

• Shouting, growling, or making a confrontational noise, towards a dog(s).

• Pinching of ears, feet, toes or any other part of a dog’s body.

• Jerking of any lead, collar, harness, head collar.

• Hitting, prodding, pushing, shoving, jabbing a dog.

• Biting a dog.

• Pinning a dog down in an ‘alpha roll’.

• Punitive physical contact of any kind, as well as intimidation or coercion or any action that causes fear.

• Any aversive or punitive manhandling causing discomfort, distress and/or pain.  

It is impossible to provide a definitive list and other items of equipment or methods may not be included on this list, however, it is expected that members will uphold the spirit of the Code of Practice in the absence of an article or method being included.