Having a pet means you use a special vocabulary, a vocabulary that may include “furbaby,” “poop scooping” and “puppy kisses.”
But have you considered what terms we should remove from our vocabulary?
Whether they’re offensive, confusing or just old-fashioned, these 4 words about pets should be replaced with terms more fitting of the lovable animals they’re referring to.
Domestic animals are considered personal property in our society. That’s a sad reality for many of us who view our furry children as, well, children. But the terms “owner” and “ownership” reflect a more legal view of our animals, not a personal one.
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t banished “owner” from my pet-loving vocabulary. I’ve decreased how often it weasels into my conversations, but it may be time to ban it altogether. (This website stopped using “owner” in 2015.)
The pet community as a whole might consider replacing “owner” with a word that reflects our relationships with our pets. For example, I am Babe’s:
I’m certain that my dog knows the difference between me and the couch, just as much as I know the difference between her and my computer. So why would I refer to her as I would an inanimate object?
If we all started replacing “owner” with something a little more compassionate, perhaps our pets would even be legally viewed as more than just property.
I’ve spent years volunteering and working for shelters and have seen firsthand the results of pet overpopulation. So I’m a huge advocate of spaying and neutering pets, but I still don’t think of unaltered animals as broken and needing to be “fixed.”
Rather than talking about pets as if they’re broken dinner plates needing to be glued back together, we should try to use more apt terms:
- Spay or neuter
In some areas, the surgery is simply referred to as “cutting.”
Maybe terms like “castrate,” “sterilize” and “cut” are a little harsher than most people would like, but “spay” and “neuter” are easy-to-use, recognizable terms.
The term “mutt” has always felt slightly negative to me.
Often when I ask about a dog’s breed, the response I get is along the lines of, “Oh, he’s just a mutt” — as if there’s nothing special about him. It’s almost as if the dog’s humans are discounting his value because of his mixed breed. That’s almost never the case with families of purebred dogs, who gush over their furry children and the amazing breed.
Why does our society rank a pet’s worth based on a set of standard characteristics? Why not rank them on their behavior, loyalty and snuggle ability? If we did, I’d bet “mutts” would be winning some trophies, too.
The first step to get over this unfortunate prejudice is to stop using the term “mutt” as a negative label. Instead, try:
- Mixed breed
- Rescue mix
- Purebred brown dog (add your pet’s color)
Or you can always do what I do when people try to decide what my dog’s breed is: Just make one up! I always make up the most exotic breed ever because my pup is one of a kind.
Like “fix,” the term “housebreak” seems to be a contradiction. When we’re referring to our pets (dogs in particular), “housebreak” means to train an animal to eliminate outside. We housebreak our pets to avoid cleaning up messes inside our home.
If we’re training our pups to help keep our houses nicer, why would we refer to it as “housebreaking”? To me, it sounds like I’m demolishing my house, not teaching my dog to piddle in the yard.
Try these options instead:
- Potty train
- Litter train (for cats)
For tips on potty training your pup, watch this video:
Making the Change
As with any other habit, changing your vocabulary can be difficult. It takes time as well as concentration. But changing the terms that we use to describe our pets and the relationships that we’ve formed can also change the way those pets are viewed by others.
If changing the way I talk about my dogs shows how much they mean to me, then I’m happy to make the change. And I hope you are, too.