Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones….. But Words Make Me Want To Stab You.



I’m in a mood.

Semantics in dog training is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever encountered. It’s like trying to debate religion. It’s nearly impossible.

Here’s a couple of gems from this week that have gotten me on a rant.

“Getting dogs out of adrenaline” 

“Reinforcing fear”

& the one that put me past the edge……..

“Conflict Aggression”

Conflict Aggression.

I’m seriously about to display some conflict aggression.

Don’t even get me started on the use of positive and negative. Or any other word involved in learning theory.

Look….. Words are useful. I like them. I’m using them now.

And like we’ve discussed on the podcast many times it is on the speaker to try to best describe their idea. And not to assume the listener will be so committed to learning that they can get through your lack of clarity.

You have to TRY to help them understand.

And I really do. I really try to get people to see what I’m saying.

But I get the feeling that people are sitting cross legged like a little kid with their fingers in their ears screaming “no…. I can’t hear you…. lalalalalalal”.

It makes me want to punt them across the room.

And just to be clear that’s a metaphor…… It would take much more antagonizing than that for me to kick a baby across a room. I do follow L.I.M.A after all.

Oh….. Wait….. No I don’t. I have been informed that even though I AM committed to using the least invasive, most minimally aversive thing that I can and still help the dog….. I am not supposed to say that word, because it’s a club, and I don’t follow the cartoon diagram that defines their secret method. And….. I didn’t do the handshake right, so they wouldn’t let me in the treehouse.

I honestly am teetering on the brink of one of two actions.

1- Not talking to any dog trainers ever.

2- Making a dog training dictionary so we can all agree on terms and clear up all the nonsense.


I don’t give up easy. So

I’ll start.

1. LIMA: is a concept. Not a protocol Or a club. . It means that said trainer commits to using the least invasive most minimally aversive option possible out of all the possible effective options.

2. Conflict Aggression: I don’t even know how to start. I can’t tell if it’s a ridiculous term. Or if I’m just irritated past my ability to reason. So I will field suggestions on this one! (see…… I AM reasonable!!!!)

3. Positive: Lets try this…. Positive with the capital we will assume to be the scientific term. As in the addition of stimulus. If its written without capitalization it means the aaawww feel good version. If it verbal we shall say that if we air quote when we say it…. it means we are not using the scientific term. First amendment: We shall assume that when talking to a client that they have never read this dictionary and so we will assume they are ALWAYS using the air quote version, until they have been allowed in the cult…. errr… I mean learned enough that we can use “real” dog trainer speak with them.

4. Negative: Follow the same rules as Positive.

5. Reinforcing: Straight up science definition here. Means that it makes the thing more likely to occur in frequency, duration, or intensity. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR INTENT WAS!!!!!!! This defines the result. NOT the intention. If the dog bites the leash and you try to yank away yelling. You meant for that to stop the behavior. On dog A that worked…. Therefore it was a not reinforcing. But dog B thinks it’s the best game of tug ever. So it IS reinforcing. These terms don’t describe anything other than the result. can be R+, and R-.

6. Rewarding: Ok…. “Technically” this means the exact same thing as reinforcing… But we’re gonna make another slang term out of this. It means GIVING something GOOD AFTER they do something you want! This is R+ for you geeks. This is “client” language.

7. Punishment: Science definition. Opposite of Reinforcing. Can be P+, or P-.

8. Correction: Slang definition. Opposite of reward. only P+.

9. Interruption: “client” language. Technically this would be punishment, OR a correction….. But implies a less invasive style. Like a noise…. A movment that steals attention, or a light touch to distract. The defining characteristic is the misdirection is what  breaks the dogs attention. Not the aversive quality. This gets grey. I’m up for help on this one.

And finally

10. Adrenaline: This shall be used to define a dog that is in a frantic OVER adrenalized state. This is not intended to describe any presence of adrenaline, such as naturally ocurring elevation of adrenaline at the sunrise. Or while doing enthusiastic obedience. This implies a lack of ability to control decisions on the part of the dog. OVER adrenaline. Also….. This is not meant to imply that adrenaline is the ONLY stress hormone released during this state. Yes cortisol and many others are present. This is a nod towards common vernacular. People say adrenaline rush, or dump. No one says “wow that roller coaster sure did elevate my cortisol and norepineopherine levels.”


Can we all agree?

Or at least agree to try to communicate.


Because sticks and stones can break your bones, but words…… Words can make me lose my carefully contained shit and beat your face into a small dish of pudding.

Just sayin.

Rant over.






2 thoughts on “Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones….. But Words Make Me Want To Stab You.”

  1. I really hate talking to other trainers. I am still pretty new and learning the ropes, but what I have already found out is (much like when I worked with horses) shelter/trainer people can often be very ….erm…. cliquish… I was talking to a lady at my local pet store the other day who said there and smack-talked progressive training for like ten minutes before I told her that’s how I was learning to train. I like to talk to people who realize there is not always just ONE right way to do things, and the way to do things can and should often vary from situation to situation and dog to dog. Along the lines of the “vocabulary,” not understanding certain words or fully understanding certain methods can lead to a very close-minded view of those things.

  2. your “rant” put me in mind of something I experienced – ‘was invited to join a group the other night to discuss dog training – turned out to be nothing more than a controlled discussion that only allowed discussion about ONE type of training – I usually get dogs sent to me for therapy that are getting their very last chance at survival, the dogs that other trainers have given up on or refuse to work with at all – just using “ONE method fits all” is going to see dogs fail – I get the kind of dog that attacks and draws blood if you have food in your hand, dogs that attempt to draw blood if you reach for their collar, or dogs that aren’t in the least food motivated – dogs that want to attack anything that moves – one dog, for example, was so aggressive to other dogs that his eyes turned blood red as soon as he saw another dog – I’ve had to develop methods that don’t rely on food, that don’t rely on a heavy hand, that don’t rely on a strict formula for every dog other than the 4 basics – before I could even make an attempt to describe my very successful methods, I was faced with all sorts of accusations of not knowing what I was doing, of not using the proper “scientific” words to describe various condititons, of using force ( “how else can you train without force if you aren’t using treats to get your message across?” ) – within the hour, less than tactful words were exchanged and I was out of that group by my own choice – after I had left the group I received several messages from people from the group that were curious about my methods – they were interested, but didn’t want to rock the boat within the group – I was glad to explain, show some pictures, and exchange some ideas, so the hour spent in the group wasn’t a complete loss – it’s a shame, though, that there are still people who claim to be good trainers that are unwilling to recognise that “one size doesn’t fit all” – that “humane” also includes saving dog’s lives

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