5 Politically Incorrect Dog Terms

©Scott Sheaffer, USA Dog Behavior

Below you'll find some old and familiar dog training terms that in recent years have become somewhat outdated in some circles. These old terms are candidates for an update in light of what we've learned in the last 20 years about dog behavior. Read the following and see what you think.

"Master" or "Owner". Some people object to these terms because they feel they don't reflect the kind of relationship we should have with dogs. They feel a relationship of trust, patience and kindness is what we should be striving for with our canine friends and "master" and "owner" just don't have that connotation. "Guardian" seems to be the preferred term for those who dislike "master" and "owner". To be honest, I like the term "guardian", but I'm going to find it hard to stop using the old familiar terms.

"Dominance". This is a term that raises the hackles of many dog trainers and behavior consultants. It's built on the idea that owners (i.e., guardians) have to tyrannize dogs in order to control them. We now know that this idea is based on a flawed model. Using sound training techniques with positive reinforcement is the most effective way to have a dog that is easy to live with - and a dog who enjoys living with us. In place of "dominance" we might use the more current term of "leadership".

"Command" and "Obedience". Anyone who has ever trained a dog knows that you absolutely can't command a dog to do anything! They have the free will to ignore anything we ask of them - ironically, this is why we enjoy dogs, but that is a topic for another article. When we use positive training techniques, most dogs want to do what we ask and this can go a long way in enhancing the relationship between dog and guardian too. The preferred term in place of "command" is now "cue". A more current replacement term for "obedience" might be "compliance".

Personally, I am much more interested in actions, rather than the words we use, when it comes to how we relate to our dogs. However, if using updated terminology can improve our relationship with dogs, maybe we should consider changing some of our dog vocabulary.