The word respect has come up quite a bit recently and it got me thinking, not just in relation to dog training but in life in general, the word respect for many people has a connotation of fear and inferiority.

For example: “you WILL respect me”….what does that even mean? It’s the same as saying “you WILL love me”.

In reflection I have never had “respect” for any one who scared me. I have felt resentment, anger, sadness, and wanted to get away from people who made me feel fear. The people I have respected have always been people who were able to teach me something, mentor me, and made me feel like I mattered.

I have always played sports, apprenticed under animal trainers, and have dealt with various personalities, the ones I respected the most, I learned the most from, I trusted, and was never afraid. I never had to walk on eggshells or coddle their egos so that they didn’t explode. And they didn’t coddle me either, but when they told me I was wrong, there was a learning experience involved and clarity in why I received the correction.

Now pretend your dog wrote that.

It’s best to look at things definitely. Here are the definitions of respect, fear, and trust.



  1. A very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
  2. A state or condition marked by this feeling.
  3. A feeling of disquiet or apprehension.

Does my dog feel this way around me or in situations I put them in?


  1. Firm belief in the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing; confidence or reliance.
  2. The condition and resulting obligation of having confidence placed in one.
  3. One in which confidence is placed.

Can my dog believe firmly in my integrity, ability and character? Is fear involved in trust?


  1. To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem or admire.
  2. To avoid interfering with or intruding upon.
  3. To avoid violating.

Do I practice definitive respect when working with my animals?

Respect is one of our core values, but it isn’t there for the dogs to read. It’s there for us, the handlers, to practice. Definitively, fear CANNOT create respect, or trust. Respect, definitively, is not a part of a superior/inferior relationship.

To practice respect we have to perceive value in the recipient of our respect. We have to perceive worth, and most importantly we have to feel like we can benefit from showing them respect.

To behave respectfully we have to think respectfully.

We can’t change the way we think without furthering our education. Incompetence in the animal world is wrought with cognitive dissonance, redefining terms, and blaming the animals for human error and ignorance.

Do I really feel that the animals I work with deserve respect ALL the time? Or if I am frustrated, or if they do something I don’t understand, is it ethical for me to use fear to get the results I want?

The difference is education.

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