Friday, 22 May 2009

Dominant Dogs?

There has been a research paper released link here

This has also hit the newspapers today which is great! This is not something new and most good dog trainers have been aware of this for a long time and the reason why we use only positive techniques.
I am what you would call a cross over trainer which means I started out using old school check chains and correction years ago but have changed. Over time I have studied and tried many techniques and now only train using positive methods because it works the best and is safe and kind and I love dogs and don’t like being mean to them.

It is sad that I visit many homes where dogs suffer because people are led to believe by other trainers and TV programmes that they need to dominate their dogs and become a pack leader. This only leads to confusion and a dog/human relationship that is in permanent conflict.

Dogs are pack animals but they don’t have the structure that wolves do and are behaviourally very different to a wolf. The studies based around using rank reduction techniques was done on wolves not dogs. Humans love hierarchies, we are surrounded by them and probably the reason we bought into this theory even though there was never any real substantial research to back it up. Humans trying to behave like wolves to train dogs is as ridiculous as it sounds!

Recent studies question if dogs even understand what you are doing when make attempts to assert dominance and leadership over them. I could go on all day about the behavioural difference between dogs and wolves!

Also ignoring a dog and only ever giving it attention when you want is actually random positive punishment for any social species, meaning that it happens irrespective of the dogs behaviour and that causes stress. Research shows that if this type of social depravation is successful in reducing aggression it is because it is a variant of learned helplessness caused by the loss of control over social contact. Not a nice psychological mind state to live in day to day.

Also many of these techniques are confrontational and aggressive such as alpha rolls and pinning. If you have ever seen a true alpha/leader (wolf or dog) you will notice that they are totally non aggressive and don’t even have to make any physical contact with another to gain respect or status, why? because they were born with it!

If an owner has been aggressive or uses physical violence on the dog using correction techniques such as scruffing, hitting or pinning the dog will think this is the way to do things. Aggression causes aggression.

I have a relationship with my dogs where we respect each other, my dogs do things because they want to not because they have to. They don’t live with the daily fear that if they make a mistake they may experience pain or punishment which sadly many dogs do. They love learning and training because together we achieve great things. My aim as a trainer is to share my knowledge and experience with others and see more happy dogs.

1 comment:

  1. I've always felt the dominance theory training must put a bit of a damper on the relationship with the dog anyway - who really wants a pet who can never express affection first - or even take the initiative in letting you know you're being burgled?

    Wonder, though, whether there was a grain of truth in it, in that there is a problem if the owner doesn't act friendly, but confident - making a huge to-do about puppy growling, for instance, rather than just saying, "oi! don't you growl at me."