I AM A DOG TRAINER.
That is a label, and is therefore, virtually useless.
Do you know the difference between a label and a behavior?
Most people think they do. I mean, they really think they're on to something. They even answer the "questions" correctly when asked, "Is _____ a label or is _____ a behavior?"
(Fun Fact: That I could not write "Is _____a label or a behavior?" is an OCD behavior.)
So, if everyone is giving the correct answers, what's my problem? If they answer correctly, surely they know the difference, right?
In practice, most people assume. Yeah, I do mean as in "make an ass out of you and out of me" (there I go with the OCD again. 5 points if you caught what the compulsion was.)
A person can say that he knows scratching his nose is a behavior and "being mean" is a label, but in practice you'll oftentimes find that same person applying labels to everything in a behavioral context.
Okay, right. And how, exactly, does this relate to dog training?
These are labels:
I don't know of a dog trainer who doesn't use them, even though most of us are well aware that labels do much more harm than help.
I once had a client whose yorkie was accused of being aggressive.
So, I got to use my favorite phrase: "Why don't you walk me through exactly what happened?"
The yorkie was barking savagely at the mailman.
What did she mean by "savagely?"
Well, it was a loud bark - different from her normal yap. She got onto the couch everyday at the same time, paced back and forth on the window ledge, and BAAAAAAAAAAAAAARKED when she saw the mailman.
...........She was over-enthusiastically happy to see the mailman. Her tail wagged, her body was loose and wiggly, and she vocalized.
Apparently, he'd given her goodies once.
She wanted some more.
Every time she saw him!
Never mind the fact that her family thought she was a vicious monster and was considering putting her down.
You'd be surprised how many of those "cases" we come across.
(Note: These people are not idiots. We knows dogs and we know their body language. If the people who came to us knew everything, we wouldn't have a job. So, don't judge - that couple has gone miles, and now understands a heck of a lot more about their yorkie, and boy are they glad she's still with them!)
It's not just that.
What gets me is that people use labels as a "diagnosis." End-all, cure-all.
Your dog is "fearful."
She's just "excited."
I don't tell people their dogs are fearful or excited. I might say something like, "It appears to me that Moxie keeps putting her tail between her legs and lowering herself when your husband walks by. Thoughts?"
That sounds like submissive or fearful behavior doesn't it?
Did you catch the trick? (10 points for that one!)
Fearful and submissive are not behaviors.
Tail tucking and body lowering are.
Think about it.
And I'll continue this later.