Accurate Not Soft: The Impact of Language on the Shelter - Karen Pryor Clicker Training
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Accurate Not Soft: The Impact of Language on the Shelter


Lindsay Wood - Cincinnati 2016

Most of us recognize that word choice is important. Words can exacerbate a difficult situation or bring peace to the situation if handled with care. Words have power, and in a shelter environment the words we use can have a huge impact on staff, animals, and adopters. Traditionally, the vocabulary used in a shelter environment is, often quite unintentionally, unhelpful to the shelter’s mission and the interests of its stakeholders.

Lindsay proposes and discusses a new vocabulary for the shelter environment, a vocabulary with language that is both accurate and neutral, a vocabulary that is rooted in descriptions of observable characteristics. For example, using “barrier frustration” as opposed to “barrier aggression” for behavior often seen in shelters promotes a fuller understanding of the behavioral situation and does not imply a personality trait or flaw of the animal.

The goal is not to create “politically correct” vocabulary in the shelter, but to use words that are accurate. Accurate is not “soft” or “harsh.” It’s simply accurate! Learn a new vocabulary… in a language you already know!