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.