The words we use

Given my earlier post defining what I think are some common words and phrases, I would like to further discuss language usage within dog training and behaviour modification.  As someone who is learning more and more about dog behaviour, I regularly speak to people about dogs, be it their dog, or a dog belonging to a family member, friend, or neighbour.  When talking about different things with people, I always try to make sure I stay away from certain words or phrases.

It seems obvious, to me, that if I want to help someone to help their dog, I cannot inflame their worries.  They need my help, and that means my understanding, knowledge, and care, alongside advice, and whatever else might be needed to help them.  I frequently see trainers on TV, or hear of other trainers, or people within the media industry, or on TV saying things like “he’s a killer”, or “he’s really scary”, or “I was worried he was going to bite me”, and so on.  As professionals (or in my case, a professional-in-training), I believe we need to choose words that reassure, use phrases that inspire confidence, and back them up with actions that gain the trust of our clients, and the trust of their dog as well.

Doing anything less is, in my books, not only unprofessional, it is unforgivable.

Many people are already scared of certain breeds of dog thanks to the media, as well as others who espouse the good breed/bad breed myths and propaganda.  Additionally, sometimes people can be more than scared enough by their own dog, so to me it is obvious that we don’t need a supposedly professional behaviourist or training instructor to spout the same nonsense too, let alone somebody with very little real knowledge of the subject writing a newspaper article, or putting their mis-informed opinion as fact on primetime TV.

I much prefer people who are rational, and look objectively at all situations, even if some people may find worrying, upsetting, or scary; as that is how we help others – by showing them that what they are worried about, actually has no cause for concern.

It’s only through gaining real knowledge that we learn.  Real knowledge should never make somebody afraid, or fearful – as the quote says “the truth will set you free”; and in this case, the truth would set everyone free; free from fear of dogs, free from fear and worry of their motivations and reasons for behaving in certain ways; and all the myths and falsehoods that still plague popular culture would be no more.


4 thoughts on “The words we use

  1. Hi Samantha, I saw you on the functional rewards forum and would love your opinion on the state on the dogtraining business in the UK. I am a trainer based in dublin about to move to Yorkshire and I want to start up my business there as I would hate to not work with dogs. My husband is there working now and I am just putting our house on the market and am finding it impossible to find a house to rent in or around Wakefield with 3 dogs and a cat. I have been laid up a little since March with a broken back. It will mend but my Malinois has had to stay with friends until I am better and its heartbreaking without her. My dogs actually saved my life after an accident. tell you the story sometime. If you have time just let me know what you think about the business there. Its pretty dire here with people really not wanting to pay for dog training when there are bills to pay. I currently have 2 BAT clients I am working with for free as they are rescues and need the help. Trish MAHON

    • Hi Trish 🙂 I feel your pain re: renting with pets, it took my partner & I about 6 months to find a reasonable house to rent with one dog.

      As for the dog training market, I do have a view of how animals are thought of, for the most part, in Ireland; as Inka came from Ireland, as did several of my friends’ dogs, and some other dogs that attend the training centre we go to/I assist at.

      As I don’t train dogs for a living (yet), I can’t really comment; but from what I do know of people in my area and posts on Facebook there are people who have dogs and can’t spare any cash to take them to classes, even if a real behaviour problem should arise; people who will spend money, but will look for the cheapest trainer they can find; people who will gladly spend what’s needed; and people like myself who will spend what’s needed, and then want to “learn the trade” too. I would imagine that it’s safe to say there are more people in the first categories & fewer people in the latter categories.

      Are you/do you plan on becoming a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers UK or the Pet Professional Guild?

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