Home > Dog Training, Pet Topics > Dogs: The Word I Hate Most

Dogs: The Word I Hate Most


There is but one word that sets my teeth on edge when it comes to dogs and dog behavior.

It so gets my ire up that I often have to take a deep breath to calm myself before expressing my opinion on that word.

The word?

Alpha.

On second thought… there is one other word that drives me even crazier than Alpha and that is Dominance (or it’s variants: dominate, dominant, domination, etc.).

Just yesterday, while speaking with a friend about getting a dog, I heard her say “Well, I know I need to be the Alpha and show him that I am dominant.” Um no. You don’t. You only need to work with that dog in a positive way and build a bond and he/she will practically do anything for you. There is no need to be “Alpha” or “dominant” with your dog.

My fellow blogger, Kevin Myers, wrote a great piece on just this very topic “Why Did the Dog Run Out the Door?” I encourage you to check it out.

In the meantime, what words set your teeth on edge?

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  1. Jolanta
    May 12, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    “Balanced training.” I know it’s two words, but …

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      Two words are great Jolanta. I have to agree with your selection too. Clearly, I am not the only one who hates some of the words being used in relation to dogs these days. Thanks for sharing!

  2. May 12, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    Thank you for the mention Mel. There are many of us out there that are tired of these words.

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 12:20 PM

      You’re welcome Kevin. I am so tired of hearing them that I end up being hyper-sensitive when I do hear them used. thus, the need for a deep breath. Not everyone understands that these terms are not a sign that you know and understand dogs, but just the opposite.

  3. May 12, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    Yep … everything related to bogus dominance theory of dog behavior, including “calm submissive” (what the rest of us see as fear or learned helplessness).

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 12:18 PM

      Ah yes. The “calm submissive” concept. I have to agree with you on that one. Learned helplessness is not calm by any means. Thanks for contributing another set of words I could add to teh list Roxanne.

  4. jan
    May 12, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    We use Alpha as a joke around here as in Misty the alpha Poodle has our best interests in mind so we do pretty much what she says.

    “Animal rights activists” sets my teeth on edge when I see it used constantly in newspapers when they should say Animal Lovers or just people with some sense of decency and justice.

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 12:16 PM

      That’s a good one Jan. I think Animal Rights Activists has been used as a way to distort what most animal lovers stand for. I like your description “people with some sense of decency and justice.”

  5. May 12, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    “K9” always rubs me the wrong way.

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 3:08 PM

      Thanks Ashley. I must ask (out of sheer curiosity), why K9? I was wondering if there was a negative connotation for you or maybe one I missed. Thanks!

      • May 12, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        I associate it with traditional police and MWD training. It especially irks me when people are selling their services to pet owners using “K9” training.

        Perhaps that style of training has it’s use in that line of work (I honestly can’t say I’m for or against because I don’t know enough), but family pets do not need to be trained that way.

        *shrug* 🙂

      • Mel
        May 13, 2011 at 6:20 AM

        Ahhh!!! Thank you so much for explaining Ashley! I figured there was more behind it and I have to agree with you. I just hadn’t put the two together in my mind before.

  6. May 12, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I’m always tempted to respond, ‘and you need psychotherapy’. I’m afraid you’ve picked my two worst words already, so I’ll add the junior cousins, ‘pack’ (nobody even knows what it means) and ‘iwaswatchingCesarMillanand…’ at which point another small part of my hope for humanity usually withers away and I cut in with, ‘great, next time try watching the dog!’

    • Mel
      May 13, 2011 at 6:24 AM

      Tamara – I’m adding those two to my list!

  7. EmilyS
    May 12, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    “nanny dog” claimed to be what pit bulls were called. NEVER. The English Staffordshire Bull Terrier has an association with that phrase, but not the APBT. Who in the USA even HAD “nannies” until recently (except I suppose the superrich, who I guarantee rarely owned APBTs)??? Not to mention it’s a stupid phrase implying that a dog can be safely left alone with children.. which NO dog (of any breed or disposition) should ever be.

    • Mel
      May 13, 2011 at 6:22 AM

      Yeah. I don’t like the idea of a “nanny dog” either Emily (except perhaps the one in Peter Pan). I think dogs and children should always be supervised when together, for the safety of both.

  8. Kristine
    May 13, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    You pretty much covered my two big word annoyances. The only time those two words ever leave my mouth is in a sarcastic tone.

    However, I would also add “treat-training”. It really bothers me how some trainers completely discredit positive reinforcement by calling it this. They say it in such a rude and dismissive way, like the people who use food rewards are hippy dippy morons. I love, love, love Zak George’s use of the word “currency” and try to use it as much as possible when describing how I train. It encompasses so much more.

    • Mel
      May 13, 2011 at 4:50 PM

      I have heard many people mention the stigma placed on those who use treats for training, but I must confess I have never had someone say it to me before. I think it’s silly to be honest. But, I DO love what Zak George calls them! What a great way to redefine the use of treats in dog training.

    • May 17, 2011 at 7:55 AM

      Oh, ‘currency’. As in ‘currency training’? Good one. Definitely doesn’t quite have that wishy-washy stigma. Even my customers give me this: “In Germany, we’ve gone back from the treats training thing as dogs were getting spoilt” o_0

      • Mel
        May 17, 2011 at 8:53 PM

        I like it too. I think that is perhaps Zak George’s way of reframing the treat vs. no treat discussion. Spoilt? Wow! We humans are so silly.

  9. May 16, 2011 at 7:48 AM

    Thanks for sharing the link to Kevin’s post… really great!

    • Mel
      May 16, 2011 at 8:28 PM

      You’re welcome!

  10. May 17, 2011 at 7:53 AM

    You and me both. It has to be the single most divisive word in the field today. I am curious to read Pam Reid’s “Dominance: are we throwing out the baby with the bath water”, though. Perhaps she’ll moderate my current anti-dominance stance? (http://canisbonus.com/2010/07/27/published-my-first-helium-article/)

    • Mel
      May 17, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      So agree Laura-Anne. I’ll definitely check out the link.

  11. Steph
    May 23, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    I use the word dominant and alpha but only to explain how wolf dogs behave. You have to earn the respect of the animal and let it understand that it can’t do whatever it wants. Like jump on you while you’re eating and marking around the house. Idk it’s hard to explain but I use to own high content wolf dogs so out of force of habit I use those words with dogs. I do hate when people use them like the way you guys are describing. I also used the word family not pack with my wolf dogs because I used them to track deer I hunted and they caught rabbits for me. The words “Treat Training” bother me as well. Dogs are different from wolves and shouldn’t be put on the same exact page I hate hearing dog owners say “How can I be alpha over my dog. I want to be the dominant one” it’s so demanding and forceful. I think that dogs should respect the human if the human is respectful to the dog. I think what people fear more is that a “dominant” or “alpha” dog will make up decisions for itself I see it a lot they fear their dog will bite someone or bolt out the door and do its own thing. It’s not out of “dominance” or being “alpha” but fear, aggression, lack of socialization, and not properly trained. All they need to do is go to obedience classes and it will help strengthen the bond between them and also help the dog understand unacceptable behavior vs. acceptable behavior. I also dislike the words “outdated dog training” some were plain wrong from the start but outdated. To say something like His/her dog training is outdated is rude and silly if you think about it there are many different dogs with many different personalities some things work for some dogs and some things don’t. The dog world is always evolving and changing so if you are stuck in one way you will never get anywhere but it cannot be “outdated” it was either wrong from the start or just plain doesnt work with that dog. Just use what works and keep learning keep evolving.

  12. Shar DogMom
    August 7, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    I always tell people that Alpha = MOM [or Dad, as the case may be 🙂 ], Pack = FAMILY, and we don’t want to be Dominant, just Head Of The Family…. like a Mom or Dad should be, in an affectionate, firm and RESPECTFUL way, like the awesome Dr. Ian Dunbar teaches us.

    Thanks for this blog, good one!

    BTW, it’s because both start with “K”, AND because being a Doctor Who fan gives it such a positive and affectionate connotation, that I call ’em my K9 kids, since all the kids I’ve ever had in my life have had four legs, tails, and barked when the doorbell rang LOL. Because of my enjoyment of the British TV show “Doctor Who”, I haven’t thought of K9 as police terminology since the 1980s LOL! [For those who don’t know whereof I speak, K9 was one of Doctor Who’s sidekicks…. a super-intelligent robot dog with a sense of humour, a very sweet nature, and he was a stalwart and loyal friend to The Doctor and to their other friends and companions. A wonderful connotation indeed :-).]

    Take care, woofs and wags!

    http://www.dogstardaily.com/blogger/4

    • Mel
      August 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM

      I love the description of K9 Kids. I have only watched bits and pieces of Dr. Who, but had many friends in high school who loved the show. It’s nice to see a different connotation of the term isn’t it? Thanks so much for stopping by!

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