Saturday, August 29, 2009

More on Dominance as an Explanation for Dog Behavior

We have posted several times in the past about the debunking of the dominance theory. You can find these previous posts by looking in the Keyword List section of the blog (look down the left side) for "dominance theory" and clicking on this.

The reason that Doggone Safe is interested in this topic and tries to spread the word is that we want to discourage dog owners from being rough with their dogs in the misguided attempt to "dominate" the dog, or to punish the dog for what is seen as "dominant" behaviour. Pinning, shaking, alpha rolling or other forms of physical force can lead to retaliation by the dog and result in a bite or in a dog that is more likely to bite in the future if it feels threatened again. Younger and weaker members of the family are more likely to be victims than are the ruling adults.

Karen Pryor, in a recent letter, summarized the results of a newly published study by British scientists in the field of veterinary behaviour as follows:

According to these specialists in companion animal behavior, training approaches aimed at "dominance reduction" vary from worthless to downright dangerous. Making dogs go through doors or eat their dinners after you, not before, will not shape the dogs' overall view of the relationship, but will only teach them what to expect in those situations.

In other words, that stuff is silly, but harmless.

"Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing the jowls, or blasting hooters [noise makers] at dogs, will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression."
Click here to see Karen's entire letter and for links to the original study and a summary of the study.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for continuing to raise this concern. I recently had a person choose to withdraw from a beginner obedience class of mine because a friend told her that "positive reinforcement stuff" meant her trainer would not allow her to correct her dog. The person who handled her refund spoke correctly about the process, offered to have me call her, but she had already decided that not being able to correct her dog was a problem BECAUSE the dog (a small mixed breed) was growling and biting at her husband and other men. Sigh...