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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The topic of pack behavior and dominance (or alpha) dynamics being debunked came up in another thread (again), and I'd like to take the time to assess the viability of some of the "debunking" claims I keep running across.

First, there's this:
Even though dogs and wolves are genetically similar, they are separated by at least fifteen thousand years of domestication that has changed them in many important ways. Today’s domestic dog is approximately as genetically similar to the wolf as we humans are to chimpanzees.
ref. link

Let's see... where to start?
1) Are the genetic differences between humans and chimps of the same order of magnitude as those between wolves and dogs? Well, chimps and humans have 96% of their DNA in common (ref link), while dogs and wolves share 98.8% (ref link). Close enough, right? Well, 2.8% may seem insignificant, but it does make the above claim mathematically false. Genetically speaking, 2.8% is quite a canyon to bridge. Which leads us to...

2) Dogs and wolves aren't just genetically similar, they are the same species (Canis)! Dogs and wolves can inter-breed, and so can their offspring (one of the tests for species is multi-generational breeding). Can we say the same about chimps and humans? Oops! Nope.

3) As for the 15K years, why not note the evolutionary time distance between chimps and humans? Oh, yeah, because it is several orders of magnitude greater, perhaps? 13 million years, in case you care to count.

4) Not only can dogs and wolves interbreed, but several dog breeds have been generated by bringing wolves into the blood line. That 15K years just got shorter.

5) Finally, do anthropologists study chimps and other primates to understand human behavior? All the time! (ref link) In particular, check out studies of Bonobos (ref link), who are closer genetically to us (98.7% -- ring a bell?).

Associated with this claim are comments about studies of wolf pack behavior in captivity being irrelevant given that wolves interact differently in the wild. Well, that would pass the giggle test if domesticated dogs also lived in the wild, but alas, by definition, they do not!

All of which goes to say, when debunking something scientifically, it helps immensely to get the science straight.
 

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Dude, just give it up. You're wrong. We've all told you multiple times on multiple threads that you're wrong. The best trainers in the business think you're wrong. The scientist who originally published the study that started all of the alpha/dominance bogus was also wrong, and he thinks you're wrong, too.

Literally. Reread that. The dude to whose scientific work you're so dearly and tenderly grasping and proliferating has repeatedly asked his publisher to stop publishing his work because he acknowledges that it's wrong.
 

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Oh, and you should look into re-titling this thread "A tale of the same discussion we've already had but I'm going to ask again because admitting that I'm uninformed is a foreign concept to me".
 

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Dude, just give it up. You're wrong. We've all told you multiple times on multiple threads that you're wrong. The best trainers in the business think you're wrong. The scientist who originally published the study that started all of the alpha/dominance bogus was also wrong, and he thinks you're wrong, too.

Literally. Reread that. The dude to whose scientific work you're so dearly and tenderly grasping and proliferating has repeatedly asked his publisher to stop publishing his work because he acknowledges that it's wrong.
You go girl!
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Dude, just give it up. You're wrong. We've all told you multiple times on multiple threads that you're wrong. The best trainers in the business think you're wrong. The scientist who originally published the study that started all of the alpha/dominance bogus was also wrong, and he thinks you're wrong, too.

Literally. Reread that. The dude to whose scientific work you're so dearly and tenderly grasping and proliferating has repeatedly asked his publisher to stop publishing his work because he acknowledges that it's wrong.
OK, setting aside you dealt with not a single one of my points, but rather hand-waved the whole thing away, let us now review verbatim David Mech's alleged recantation of the "alpha" concept. While the beginning of this video seems to support your point, please do not miss what he says at the 1:35 minute mark. And I quote:

"It's appropriate to use the term 'alpha' in an artificial pack where you might put many wolves from different assemblages together,... then they would form a pecking order or a dominance hierarchy, and you could call the top animal at that point the 'alpha.' But that happens rarely in the wild, if ever." (emphasis mine)

Then, he goes on to note special cases in the wild where dominance can and has developed. Again, there, you have the 'assemblages' effect he mentions at work.

Now, let's listen for comprehension to what he actually said, and let's think about what happens in a home where you have two or more dogs:

1) First, your home is not the wild!!! Your pooch is not ranging free in the middle of Yosemite or Yellowstone.
2) Second, the dogs, as benign as we may make it, are living in captivity.
3) Third, unless you bred all the dogs from a single male/female pair, BINGO, most of us have exactly the sort of "assemblages" Dr. Mech refers to.

Now, will someone with a straight face and a modicum of logical wherewithal please explain how this debunks anything? Or can we use, if nothing else, common sense to admit that, yes, at least when it comes to multiple dogs in a home we could face dominance issues among them?
 

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I fully agree with the thought that one must at least use scientifically viable arguments if they want to debunk something scientifically. After all, if one says that the moon must be 238,900 miles away from Earth, because if it were any closer we could smell the stinky cheese it's made of :p, they're still wrong even if their basic conclusion (moon is 238,900 miles away) is correct.

So I'm all for scientific accuracy. Other than that, I'm not sure about the point here?

Oh, nobody is saying that dominance issues among dogs isn't a thing. Dominance in the dog/human relationship isn't really a thing, or at least not a useful thing in dog training.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I fully agree with the thought that one must at least use scientifically viable arguments if they want to debunk something scientifically. After all, if one says that the moon must be 238,900 miles away from Earth, because if it were any closer we could smell the stinky cheese it's made of :p, they're still wrong even if their basic conclusion (moon is 238,900 miles away) is correct.

So I'm all for scientific accuracy. Other than that, I'm not sure about the point here?

Oh, nobody is saying that dominance issues among dogs isn't a thing. Dominance in the dog/human relationship isn't really a thing, or at least not a useful thing in dog training.
My point is that there's a great deal of hand-waving and cherry-picking when it comes to "scientifically-based" support for training philosophies. For a case in point, look at my follow-up (above) on Dr. Mech's alleged recantation (another oft-trotted claim) re: dominance/alpha theory.

My other concern is that by throwing dominance theory out altogether (which is what tends to happen in these discussions), people are indeed erroneously discarding dominance (alpha-beta) interactions among dogs. I personally don't see much value in using dominance when it comes to human-dog interactions, not necessarily because I discount it altogether (though I have my doubts), but because there are more effective ways to get along. And I personally don't want to lord it over my dog. I want him or her to be my friend and partner.

Yet, let's understand and appreciate the dynamic, because it is there. For instance, if you're managing aggressive interactions between two of your dogs, what happens when you intervene? Could some of the dominance dynamic between them splash onto you the second you insert your hand into the brawl? What if you side with one dog vs. the other (or your dogs perceive the intervention that way)? It's worth at least being aware of what's going on, all of it, rather than trying to make it all go away with happy positive thoughts.
 

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Oh, nobody is saying that dominance issues among dogs isn't a thing. Dominance in the dog/human relationship isn't really a thing, or at least not a useful thing in dog training.
Yep this, this is the bit you seem to be missing.

If you want a more accurate analogy (I agree comparing dogs/wolves to humans/chimps is a bit silly), it was once posed to me as taking the behaviour of prison inmates and extrapolating that this is how family units behave. It obviously isn't, and if you tried to use methods of interaction among inmates on families you would get some pretty messed up family dynamics pretty quickly.
 

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My point is that there's a great deal of hand-waving and cherry-picking when it comes to "scientifically-based" support for training philosophies.
Of course? There's a great deal of hand-waving and cherry-picking when it comes to scientifically-based support for anything. You can find a study to support just about any position. You can always find a whackadoo scientist who believes exactly what you believe, no matter what it is! Want a marine biologist who believes in mermaids? You can find one!

So, idk. You have to see what the general consensus is, and make up your own mind about who has the best evidence.
 

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OK, setting aside you dealt with not a single one of my points, but rather hand-waved the whole thing away, let us now review verbatim David Meck's alleged recantation of the "alpha" concept. While the beginning of this video seems to support your point, please do not miss what he says at the 1:35 minute mark. And I quote:

"It's appropriate to use the term 'alpha' in an artificial pack where you might put many wolves from different assemblages together,... then they would form a pecking order or a dominance hierarchy, and you could call the top animal at that point the 'alpha.' But that happens rarely in the wild, if ever." (emphasis mine)

Then, he goes on to note special cases in the wild where dominance can and has developed. Again, there, you have the 'assemblages' effect he mentions at work.

Now, let's listen for comprehension to what he actually said, and let's think about what happens in a home where you have two or more dogs:

1) First, your home is not the wild!!! It's not ranging free in the middle of Yosemite or Yellowstone.
2) Second, the dogs, as benign as we may make it, are living in captivity.
3) Third, unless you bred all the dogs from a single male/female pair, BINGO, most of us have exactly the sort of "assemblages" Dr. Meck refers to.

Now, will someone with a straight face and a modicum of logical wherewithal please explain how this debunks anything? Or can we use, if nothing else, common sense to admit that, yes, at least when it comes to multiple dogs in a home we could face dominance issues among them?
His name is spelled "Mech". If you can't even get his name right, I wonder what other details you're missing in your odd, lengthy and redundant extrapolations.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
His name is spelled "Mech". If you can't even get his name right, I wonder what other details you're missing in your odd, lengthy and redundant extrapolations.
Thanks for pointing that out. Now would you be equally so kind to address the points I made on their merits, rather than, again, offering a non-useful hand-wave?
 

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It obviously isn't, and if you tried to use methods of interaction among inmates on families you would get some pretty messed up family dynamics pretty quickly.
From my time in doggy day camp I can tell you the majority of dogs are much too lazy for dominant/submissive behavior or hierarchical pack dynamics to come into play, although a few dogs you could definitely peg as dominant personalities or dominant-but-insecure personalities. A stable dominant dog is the kind that picks a spot to lay and that's her spot. If a ball rolls into her spot, oh well. No other dog will go for the ball. They'll watch from a distance hoping she gets up but she never will. She doesn't even care about the ball. I can go take it away no problem. But that's HER spot.

An insecure dominant dog is the kind that is cool most of the group until one too many dogs have come in and now they're picking on a puppy just because the puppy won't fight back.

I would often control my group by simply walking the perimeter as most dogs would then follow me. It was great for getting their attention off of a shy newcomer. Were they following me because I'm being a confident leader and a good "alpha" or were they following me because I'm interesting and fun? No idea.

I find dominant/submissive useful when I'm pegging the personality of a dog, but it's not useful for every dog. It depends on what I'm trying to express.

As for pack structure if you read a lot about the wolves in, say, yellowstone you will still see the terms in use at times. Alpha now refers to the matriarch/patriarch of a social unit. A pack is just a social unit. That's all it is. Sometimes the alphas are very aggressive towards their packs. Sometimes not. It depends on the personality of the individual.

That said some people need to be spritzed with cold water for using the terms inappropriately or we'll never shake the outdated connotations.
 

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I apologize for my flippant replies, but I tend to get impatient with a single dissenter repeatedly bringing up the same topic and arguing with people who are far more experienced with and have more education about dogs than they do.

For a real answer:

Dogs are not wolves. Dog behavior and social structures, both dog/dog relationships and dog/human relationships, are not comparable to wolf/wolf or wolf/human relationships. To apply a dominance or alpha/beta relationship to dogs is incredibly misleading and harmful.

For instance, I have four dogs in my house. Shenzi (older female) will bite other dogs with almost no warning if they come into her space when she has a resource. So she'd be the dominant one, right? Except Zephyr pushes to the front of the group and shoves Shenzi out of the way when it's time to go outside. So he'd be the dominant one, right? Except Titan frequently sits on top of Zephyr and shoves him off of furniture. So he'd be the dominant one, right? Except Little Dog resource guards the kitchen and will keep all of the other dogs out of it. So is he dominant?

The answer is that none of them are dominant. Dominance is 'situational desire for priority access to a resource', if we insist upon using the term. It does not define the state of being of a relationship or a permanent heirarchy.

This fluidity in heirarchy makes the word dominance nearly useless in conversations about dogs or training. Beyond that, dominance is often falsely attributed to behaviors that are actually fear motivated, which leads to extremely harsh techniques that are supposed to convince the dog that it's the 'beta' being applied to already fearful dogs.

Also, a dog redirecting a bite onto a human when the human is breaking up a fight isn't a dominant behavior. It's over arousal, fixation and lack of impulse control in the moment. It has nothing to do with a human taking sides, or the dog feeling spite.

ETA: When the originator of a theory, and one of the foremost experts on wolf behavior, comes forward and goes as far as repeatedly asking his publisher to stop publishing the theory, I think it's time to sit up and pay attention. You accuse me of cherry picking and hand waving, yet you're the one hand waving at the scientist who is the expert in this field when he says that his original theory was wrong, and cherry picking certain points of his clarifications to support your own arguments that the theory he's attempting to correct was valid from the start.

Edited again to add: There are also wolf behavioral scientists who have observed "dominant", or in other words the "breeding/mating male and female", giving priority access to resources to other members of the pack who are lower in the heirarchy, or in other words, non-breeding. It's a concept that cannot even be clearly defined in a wolf pack, let alone in the complicated dynamics of a dog relationships in which they're asked to interact with both other dogs and people.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
I apologize for my flippant replies, but I tend to get impatient with a single dissenter repeatedly bringing up the same topic and arguing with people who have far more experienced with and education about dogs than they do.

For a real answer:

Dogs are not wolves. Dog behavior and social structures, both dog/dog relationships and dog/human relationships, are not comparable to wolf/wolf or wolf/human relationships. To apply a dominance or alpha/beta relationship to dogs is incredibly misleading and harmful.

For instance, I have four dogs in my house. Shenzi (older female) will bite other dogs with almost no warning if they come into her space when she has a resource. So she'd be the dominant one, right? Except Zephyr pushes to the front of the group and shoves Shenzi out of the way when it's time to go outside. So he'd be the dominant one, right? Except Titan frequently sits on top of Zephyr and shoves him off of furniture. So he'd be the dominant one, right? Except Little Dog resource guards the kitchen and will keep all of the other dogs out of it. So is he dominant?

The answer is that none of them are dominant. Dominance is 'situational desire for priority access to a resource', if we insist upon using the term. It does not define the state of being of a relationship or a permanent heirarchy.

This fluidity in heirarchy makes the word dominance nearly useless in conversations about dogs or training. Beyond that, dominance is often falsely attributed to behaviors that are actually fear motivated, which leads to extremely harsh techniques that are supposed to convince the dog that it's the 'beta' being applied to already fearful dogs.

Also, a dog redirecting a bite onto a human when the human is breaking up a fight isn't a dominant behavior. It's over arousal, fixation and lack of impulse control in the moment. It has nothing to do with a human taking sides, or the dog feeling spite.

ETA: When the originator of a theory, and one of the foremost experts on wolf behavior, comes forward and goes as far as repeatedly asking his publisher to stop publishing the theory, I think it's time to sit up and pay attention. You accuse me of cherry picking and hand waving, yet you're the one hand waving at the scientist who is the expert in this field when he says that his original theory was wrong, and cherry picking certain points of his clarifications to support your own arguments that the theory he's attempting to correct was valid from the start.
Thanks for sharing your fuller response. Some good thoughts there. You share some great experiential knowledge that differs from my own in some respects. As I stated elsewhere, I have experienced dominance between two of my dogs -- it was very clear, and it wasn't associated with resource guarding or anxiety or any of the other dynamics often mentioned as replacement explanations. In fact, it was a healthy and at times very sweet interaction.

On the point of Dr. Mech's recanting his theory, however, your take still discounts that it only applies to interactions in the wild, and are thus irrelevant (beside the point) when it comes to where most of us live with and handle our dogs. Again, watch that video I linked from the 1:35 minute mark. You will see he acknowledges the exceptions where dominance does come into play. I would then ask you to consider the similarities between the conditions (assemblages) he describes and what some of us may encounter in our own assembled homebound packs.
 

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Thanks for sharing your fuller response. Some good thoughts there. You share some great experiential knowledge that differs from my own in some respects. As I stated elsewhere, I have experienced dominance between two of my dogs -- it was very clear, and it wasn't associated with resource guarding or anxiety or any of the other dynamics often mentioned as replacement explanations. In fact, it was a healthy and at times very sweet interaction.

On the point of Dr. Mech's recanting his theory, however, your take still discounts that it only applies to interactions in the wild, and are thus irrelevant (beside the point) when it comes to where most of us live with and handle our dogs. Again, watch that video I linked from the 1:35 minute mark. You will see he acknowledges the exceptions where dominance does come into play. I would then ask you to consider the similarities between the conditions (assemblages) he describes and what some of us may encounter in our own assembled homebound packs.
You're simply still not accounting for the biological impact that hundreds of years of domestication has on dogs. Dog body language differs from breed to breed, let alone from wolves. They vocalize differently. They have the ability to recognize facial expressions in humans and even have a left gaze facial recognition bias. They're just not comparable to wolves other than their species, their somewhat similar body shapes (but then they're also similar to coyotes, which are not considered the same species), and their dietary needs (which are also arguably different).

It's worth noting that while dogs and wolves are the same species, they are different subspecies of animals.

There's a study on foxes being conducted in Siberia that is interesting and relevant: http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/early-canid-domestication-the-farm-fox-experiment/1

Belyaev, however, believed that the key factor selected for was not size or reproduction, but behavior—specifically amenability to domestication, or tamability. More than any other quality, Belyaev believed, tamability must have determined how well an animal would adapt to life among human beings. Because behavior is rooted in biology, selecting for tameness and against aggression means selecting for physiological changes in the systems that govern the body's hormones and neurochemicals. Those changes, in turn, could have had far-reaching effects on the development of the animals themselves, effects that might well explain why different animals would respond in similar ways when subjected to the same kinds of selective pressures.
Through genetic selection alone, our research group has created a population of tame foxes fundamentally different in temperament and behavior from their wild forebears. In the process we have observed some striking changes in physiology, morphology and behavior, which mirror the changes known in other domestic animals and bear out many of Belyaev's ideas.
The article goes on to detail the immense physical and behavioral changes brought about by only forty years of selective breeding for "tamability". The foxes bred by this program are no longer comparable biologically, behaviorally, or reproductively, to their wild relatives. After only forty years.

Now multiply that by hundreds (or thousands) of years of selective breeding and try to calculate for the biological and behavioral changes that may take place. And after that math, please explain to me why what wild wolves who hunt in packs and are a potential predatory threat to dogs and people has absolutely anything to do with what my Great Danes do in my home or how they interact with me.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I find dominant/submissive useful when I'm pegging the personality of a dog, but it's not useful for every dog. It depends on what I'm trying to express.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This here is a key point that often gets missed. Many of these discussions turn into "I've never seen dominance" vs. "I see dominance all the time" which may have more to do with the individual dogs we have met and observed than anything else! It's amazing, but dogs aren't predictable, programmable robots. They have personalities which often evolve over time. I may have ten GSDs at home, and may see little dominance. And my father in law may have two Yorkshire terriers that go at each other all the time, and that may have to do with dominance, or something else. It depends in large part on what personality these dogs have. We focus on the nurture part, as we should, because that's our responsibility. But nature is a pretty strong force, too. Each of our dogs deserves tailored care based on his or her individual traits and needs. We do that for grooming and nutrition, so we shouldn't be surprised if understanding who they are as dogs also fits a similar approach.
 

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Thanks for sharing your fuller response. Some good thoughts there. You share some great experiential knowledge that differs from my own in some respects. As I stated elsewhere, I have experienced dominance between two of my dogs -- it was very clear, and it wasn't associated with resource guarding or anxiety or any of the other dynamics often mentioned as replacement explanations. In fact, it was a healthy and at times very sweet interaction.
Dominance has a definition in ethology and it relates to priority access to resources, it's not a personality trait. I suspect that what you experienced between your dogs was more about temperament and personalities. I have two dogs who are very different; one is definitely a "leader" and the other a "follower." Some might call one dominant and the other submissive; I call one exuberant and assertive, and the other mellow and lackadaisical.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
You're simply still not accounting for the biological impact that hundreds of years of domestication has on dogs. Dog body language differs from breed to breed, let alone from wolves. They vocalize differently. They have the ability to recognize facial expressions in humans and even have a left gaze facial recognition bias. They're just not comparable to wolves other than their species, their somewhat similar body shapes (but then they're also similar to coyotes, which are not considered the same species), and their dietary needs (which are also arguably different).

It's worth noting that while dogs and wolves are the same species, they are different subspecies of animals.
This again discounts the genetic similarities, and the injection of wolf blood lines that has happened more recently than the period you mention. But I will allow that from a nurture perspective, domestication has changed some behaviors in dogs (they don't bite us as often, thank God). Genetic force, however, is not so easily done away with. Again, the fact that wolves in captivity seem to exhibit the ill behavior we find in some dogs is highly suggestive that all those millennia didn't quite get rid of every wolf-like trait. I will admit, however, that studies of feral dogs and dingos (after a couple of generations of breeding, ref. link) suggest that dogs have lost that hierarchical/alpha drive when it comes to breeding. That for me is somewhat fuzzy in meaning, because when we deal with alleged dominance issues among dogs, rarely is breeding part of the equation, so the relevance is somewhat in question.

OTOH, at least one other (recent) study (ref. link) claims to show that while the modus operandi among wolves is cooperation, dogs operate more along lines of submission. Now, where there's submission there must be... The D word, and I don't mean Dallas.

There's a study on foxes ...
Now, here I'm tempted to hand-wave this away, noting that if wolves and dogs can't be compared, foxes would offer even less useful information. Why not frogs? Instead, I'll say, interesting and informative, so long as we don't stretch its applicability too far.

Now multiply that by hundreds (or thousands) of years of selective breeding and try to calculate for the biological and behavioral changes that may take place. And after that math, please explain to me why what wild wolves who hunt in packs and are a potential predatory threat to dogs and people has absolutely anything to do with what my Great Danes do in my home or how they interact with me.
Here I'll let the first paragraph of the article I linked above do the talking for me:

"For dog lovers, comparative psychologists Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi have an unsettling conclusion. Many researchers think that as humans domesticated wolves, they selected for a cooperative nature, resulting in animals keen to pitch in on tasks with humans. But when the two scientists at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna studied lab-raised dog and wolf packs, they found that wolves were the tolerant, cooperative ones. The dogs, in contrast, formed strict, linear dominance hierarchies that demand obedience from subordinates, Range explained last week at the Animal Behavior Society meeting at Princeton University. As wolves became dogs, she thinks, they were bred for the ability to follow orders and to be dependent on human masters."

Whoa!... Now there's a new wrinkle... Yes, many millennia of selective breeding has happened. And it has cooked out independence and cooperation out of wolves, so that domestic dogs by breeding look for a leader. Man, I need to look more into the validity of this study, but Cesar Milan must be smiling.
 

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Now, here I'm tempted to hand-wave this away, noting that if wolves and dogs can't be compared, foxes would offer even less useful information. Why not frogs? Instead, I'll say, interesting and informative, so long as we don't stretch its applicability too far.
Your eagerness to hand wave a very relevant study has blinded you.

I'm not comparing foxes to dogs. I'm comparing foxes in captivity who have been selectively bred for tamability to foxes in their control group which have not been selectively bred.

May I recommend fully reading before you knee jerk respond and make yourself look foolish in the process?

Here I'll let the first paragraph of the article I linked above do the talking for me:

"For dog lovers, comparative psychologists Friederike Range and Zsófia Virányi have an unsettling conclusion. Many researchers think that as humans domesticated wolves, they selected for a cooperative nature, resulting in animals keen to pitch in on tasks with humans. But when the two scientists at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna studied lab-raised dog and wolf packs, they found that wolves were the tolerant, cooperative ones. The dogs, in contrast, formed strict, linear dominance hierarchies that demand obedience from subordinates, Range explained last week at the Animal Behavior Society meeting at Princeton University. As wolves became dogs, she thinks, they were bred for the ability to follow orders and to be dependent on human masters."

Whoa!... Now there's a new wrinkle... Yes, many millennia of selective breeding has happened. And it has cooked out independence and cooperation out of wolves, so that domestic dogs by breeding look for a leader. Man, I need to look more into the validity of this study, but Cesar Milan must be smiling.
The study is completely irrelevant. It operates on the premise that researchers can choose high ranking or low ranking animals and watch their interactions, but as I've clearly stated above, how is rank determined? Especially when rank is fluid depending upon which resource is at stake? The interactions are not natural, they're studies set up by humans based on a false premise of rank or dominance. They're trying to provide dominance exists with a method that already relies on the fact that dominance exists, so there's no non-biased evidence to be drawn from it.

And seriously?:

To find out if dogs are "independent problem solvers," she presented 20 adult dogs (10 pets and 10 from shelters) with sealed containers of summer sausage. Each animal was allotted 2 minutes to open it. Ten captive wolves were given the same test. Not one of the adult dogs succeeded; most did not even try. Meanwhile, eight of the 10 wolves opened the container in less than 2 minutes. So did dog puppies, indicating that dogs are no less capable of the task than wolves, but “as the dog grows and becomes more dependent on its human owner that [independent] behavior is inhibited,” Udell said.

Underscoring the point, she found that adult pooches could open the container after all—when their human owner told them to do so. Because dogs “suppress their independence, it’s difficult to know what their normal problem-solving abilities are,” she told the meeting.
I mean, come on. You give 20 dogs a container and because some of them don't open it you assume they're waiting on a human's commands to do so? Give me a freaking break.

ETA: And in case you didn't notice, Millan doesn't give a whole lot of commands. He makes a lot of "psht" noises while poking dogs in the necks and shoulders. When he's not too busy flooding them, alpha rolling them, hanging them from collars or inciting them to bite him, of course.
 
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