Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's in a word

I had a conversation recently that made me think about the words we use in the "dog world". I try to be careful about certain words, like aggression for instance. Sometimes people use it to describe their dog when in reality they mean something else. I always hesitate to label a dog as aggressive due to the fallout of what that means for the dog. They may be acting aggressively in a specific context, however that doesn't mean they are aggressive all the time. Aggressive can be a label that can become a death sentence for some dogs.
I personally think the word dominant is being over used in dog circles (thanks to a certain TV personality) and I know another trainer that hates the word reactive. All dogs are reactive if they are alive is her point. Something happens and they react to it. That can be as simple as a can of food being opened. (Soups on! The dogs arriving at the dinner bowl is their reaction.) Instead we tend to hear it used as a description word for dogs that get snarky or barky at something/someone. "The dog was being reactive". I'm sure I've used it that way myself. It seems we all have our hot button words.
It also occurred to me why the phrase "Be calm and assertive" rubs me the wrong way. Why? Well, isn't assertive another word for pushy? Shouldn't we be calm and confident? How about calm and attentive? Either is a better choice for how we are with our dogs if you ask me. Just my two cents.
Speaking of words do you suppose fewer people would dock tails if we really called it what it is: cutting off puppy tails? (ref "cropped" photo above) Food for thought.
What words do you dislike in your world of dogs?


Marie said...

Ref the docking comment: This wasn't meant to start a conversation about cropping and docking. While I'm not a fan of either I don't go around bemoaning the dogs out there that are. I even admit to liking the look of a nice ear crop on a doberman. I would just never do it myself and prefer we not cut of dog parts simply for looks. (what WE silly humans consider attractive)
Of course we also breed dogs to look a certain way (which attracts us) so I guess that makes all of us with purebred dogs hipocrites. (it's all so complicated!)

I might be persuaded to consider cropping or docking for function but I haven't heard many truely compelling arguments for this. Of course this is all easy for me to say considering I have breeds that this isn't an issue for. (anymore-they used to crop pugs ears years ago)

But I digress. This post was about the power of words. Crop and dock vs cut and slice is just one good example.

Jen said...

i hate the term alpha. whenever anyone uses it I want to use the squeaky voice from the movie "UP".

dominance is a big one for me too. I understand its meaning in a societal structure but I just don't think many people can apply it to dogs correctly or with justification. Especially in a one dog household!

I've not hired trainers that used the above two words.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts in this post!

I hate when people speak about being "the pack leader" for their dogs. I think I don't need to be a leader of the dog pack. I am a human and they are dogs and I belive also dogs know the difference. I don't understant why I should pretend to be a leader dog for them. That does not mean I let my dogs do whatever they want. They are trained and have rules to obey and I make the rules because I am a human not because I am a leader dog.

katie said...

Most of the whole dominance/pack leader/alpha speak gets on my nerves.

Also, "correction". Especially when it comes with the context that correction = good and punishment = bad when most of the time they're one and the same.