A Rose By Any Other Name? How slang terms affect a dog owner’s perception


 “…Storms in a sport, like those in society, are always risky because they
                usually bring with them unwanted damage. What has gone unnoticed about
                this storm is how the animal rights movement has used a series of undefined
                labels to drive the winds that have already altered and changed the dog
                world.  Now, however, through the use of well-crafted labels, they are
                able to describe a person, thing or event in either a positive or negative
                light. Over the years they have learned how to use the power of the
                undefined label to capture the interests and attention of the public, the
                clubs and the breeders…”
                Today, when the term “puppy mill” is used, it quickly arouses a negative 
                and emotional response. More importantly, it demonstrates how one undefined 
                label in the hands of a determined group can manipulate the masses.” 

               Excerpt from A Gathering Storm by Carmen Battaglia.

The power of words is to convey meaning precisely

The manner of delivery and the influence of inflection and syntax can emphasize or diminish the impact, but the power to calm or inflame is in the chosen words themselves.  Changing words may not change the object but it can make perception a reality, especially when you’re trying to reach someone with a particular argument that they may already have their own ideas.

Consider this scenario:  An average dog owner is wandering through booths of vendors trying to find a training tool to stop their dog from pulling on the leash.  They come across a company that sells canine head halters.  The name for this piece of equipment is “Gentle Guider” and includes a button that reads “NO, it’s not a muzzle!”  The booth next to this vendor sells metal slip collars.  The name for this piece of equipment is “Choke Chain.”  If this member of the “general public” didn’t know anything about dogs, or about dog training, or equipment, and someone told them they could use a “Gentle Leader” on their dog or a “Choke Chain”, which do you think they would likely choose?

If this person is clouded by their own preconceived notions, you may suspect they would choose the Gentle Leader based on the name of the equipment and the perception that it must be more humane.  But if used improperly or with the wrong personality or temperament of the dog, the head halter can be far from humane.

Become educated on dog training equipment

If this average dog owner is open-minded, they will listen to other points of view and become educated on the equipment.  They will learn how to use the piece of equipment appropriately and base their decision on obtaining the best training tool for their needs and the personality and temperament of their dog.  They may choose the Gentle Leader or they may choose a “choke chain”, a “pinch” collar or a “shock” collar.

Whether a tool is called a training collar or a choke chain, a Gentle Leader or a head muzzle, the importance is not in the name but in using the right piece of equipment appropriately.  This can only be accomplished through constructive dialogue where the dog owner is willing to listen and the dog professional can demonstrate how the tool is intended to work and explain the technology behind it.  Doing so can stop people from unknowingly abusing their dogs and provide the added result of happier and better-trained canines.


(Blogger Laura Pakis is a certified professional dog trainer   Certified professional dog trainers are educated to assist owners with their dogs as well as demonstrate proper training techniques using the correct tools to achieve the goals of the owners to the personality and temperament of the dog.  The initials CPT after a person’s name indicate the dog trainer has a code of ethics to follow which includes the care and welfare of the dog involved.)

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