The Words We Choose

Victoria Schade Dog Life, Dog Training

Housebreak.

Correct.

Command.

Obedience.

These words have been a part of dog training since forever. Hell, my first dog training business eighteen years ago had the word “obedience” in it.

Now, those words feel wrong to me. They feel … ugly.

They all suggest that training is something you do to your dog, not with your dog. A million years ago that was exactly how dog training worked, but now we understand that dogs learn best when they’re allowed to be happy and creative participants in the training process. When they have the ability to make choices during training, and yes, even mistakes.

I’m not trying to be the word police (okay, I totally am), but the words we choose to describe how we train our best friends matter. Reframing training terminology to make it collaborative instead of combative changes approach and intent.

You’re not housebreaking your new puppy because you’re not breaking her of anything. You’re housetraining her, because she’s a baby and she’s still learning the ropes.

You don’t correct your dog, you guide, redirect, refocus, or better yet, set her up for success so the “wrong” thing requiring a correction isn’t even possible.

You don’t have to command your dog, because you’re running a household not a military operation. How about the word “cue” instead?

And obedience? Try training, instruction, or lessons.

I don’t want an obedient dog because that sounds like something out of 1950s Catholic school, all repressed and unhappy. I much prefer a dog that listens to me because she wants to, not because she has no other choice, or she’s afraid of the repercussions if she doesn’t.

I’ll take a responsive dog over an obedient dog any day, and the first step to making that happen is rethinking the words we use when we talk about training our dogs.