Are labels useful?
Throughout our lives, people attach labels to us, and we attach labels to others. Those labels reflect and affect how others think about us as well as how we think about ourselves. Labels are not always negative but some of the labels that we use to describe each other are the result of assumptions and stereotypes.
We regularly apply labels to people whom we barely know or have never even met, and the same is done to us. Sadly this also happens with dogs.
"This dog is reactive"
"That dog is aggressive"
"The dog next door is vicious"
"My dog is stubborn"
"He is a difficult dog"
and the list goes on......
Labels can limit the amount of information we can gain about the individual dog and they also shape how we think about that dog.
A dogs behaviour is a reflection of how he feels in a particular situation or about a specific trigger. He may not behave in the same way in other situations.
Just because a dog barks or lunges towards another dog, does not mean he is aggressive or vicious or a "bad" dog. Labelling also doesn't take into account motivation.
A dog may be labelled "aggressive" but really he may be fearful of the other dogs. He may have had a bad experience in the past, he may have been forced to meet other dogs when he would prefer not to, he may have have been punished for not being "sociable" or he may even be in pain. He now uses barking or lunging to create distance from other dogs - he isn't wanting to get closer to attack the other dog.
The labels we use affect how we view the behaviour, instead of looking at why he is behaving that way.
We need to view a dogs behaviour with compassion, empathy and understanding - not judge them (and the same goes for humans too)!